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Finland's packaging mills resume production

01-Jun-2005

Finland's packaging mills are back in production today (1 June) after a two-week strike, while the rest of the country's pulp and paper sector remains in an extended lockout, reports Ahmed ElAmin.

The Finnish Forest Industries Federation has extended their lockout of the rest of the sector's 24,000 workers until 29 June unless a compromise is achieved, said Halana Aatinen, the organisation's spokesperson.

Finland's paper sector accounts for eight per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and 15 per cent of the world's total production of paper. The lockout affects some of the world's largest paper makers, including UPM-Kymmene and Stora Enso, leading to fears of a hike in global paper prices.

 

Talks between the industry body and the workers' union resumed on Monday and continued at 10am Finnish time this morning, Aatinen said.

 

The industry association had initially excluded the packaging mills from the lockout, but workers went on strike at those plants anyway, except for one mill that made milk packages, she said.

 

"We wanted to insure that our packaging clients were not hurt by the lockout," Aatinen said about the initial exclusion of the mills from the shutdown of the industry. Shetold FoodProductionDaily.com that the industry body was forced to give advance notice about the extension due to reporting requirements under Finland's laws.

 

Meanwhile the sector's workers' union, Paperiliito , condemned the extension of the lockout for the rest of the non-packaging mills. The lockout wasimposed on 18 May after weeks of wildcat strikes and work stoppages by workers.

 

The union began a 48-hour work stoppage on Sunday in an unsuccessful bid to break the deadlock. The union estimates that Finland is losing €40m a day from the lockout. The twosides have been in negotiations since December until talks broke down over a new agreement for the industry's 24,000 workers and technicians.

 

The major impasse centres on pay for bank holidays and on bonuses. The industry has offered more pay and an 11-hour reduction in annual hours. The employers want to remove theobligatory Christmas and mid-summer shutdowns and restrictions on the use of subcontractors from the paper industry collective agreement.

 

"If the mills are to be kept running through Christmas and mid-summer, we want a bigger slice of the growth in productivity," said the paper workers' union chairman, JoukoAhonen.

 

Finland has 10 packaging mills. Eight of the factories produce corrugated board and two sheet board packaging material, mainly for local clients. There is also one milk packagingcompany.

 

The mills output is mainly used for boxes, trays for yogurts and at this time of the year, packaging for vegetables and berries, said Anneli Laakso, the secretary general of theFinnish corrugated board association.

 

Finland's berry industry has said it could lose up to 80 per cent of sales this summer because of a lack of packaging.

 

Meanwhile in neighboring Sweden, the country's paper union has imposed an overtime ban at 16 mills in support of Finnish paper workers.

 

The largest member companies in the Finnish Forest Industries Federation are Stora-Enso, UPM-Kymmene, M-Real, Metsä-Tissue, Myllykoski and Ahlström.

 

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