Finnish Paper Giants Shut Mills over Walkout: Impact on Global Pulp?

Finland produces more than 8.7 million metric tons of pulp every year.

Sat 16 Mar 24


Three of the world’s largest forest companies have closed pulp or paper mills after Finnish workers agreed to a two-week strike “walkout” on Monday over recent changes to the labour market.

It will see UPM, Stora Enso and the Metsä Group close six Finnish plants, in a move that Petri Vanhala, chair of the European Paperworkers Union, criticised.

While Metsä Group has pledged to continue paying workers through the walkout (not strike), UPM and Stora Enso have confirmed that, under Finnish law, the workers will not be paid throughout the strike. 

“In the past, when a strike, or another union’s strike, or something else, has caused the mill to shut down, the company had an obligation to pay wages for seven days, but UPM (which will close four plants) has announced that this will not happen this time,” Mr Vanhala said, adding that the union will assess whether UPM’s decision complies with Finnish labour legislation once the strike has ended.

The union is now threatening court action, adding that “it will take longer [to resolve] if we go to court, but it will be clear whether the company acted rightly or wrongly. Our interpretation is that it is acting wrongly.”

Finland’s plans to roll out sweeping austerity measures have sparked protests and strikes across the country. The footage is courtesy of @artetvdocumentary.

The controversy centres around the union’s continued opposition to the government’s planned changes to labour market legislation, which, according to Mr Vanhala, will see the government change the definition of employment contracts and conditions.

In response, UPM’s Labour Markets VP, Jyrki Hollmén, justified the company’s decision, noting that the political strikes aim to influence legislative changes concerning the working conditions of employees, as defined by Finland’s Employment Contracts Act.

“In this case, the employer is not obliged to pay wages to employees who are out of work due to strikes,” according to Hollmén, with Stora Enso’s Communications Director Ingrid Peura also confirming that “the policy is that at the point when work is prevented, the payment of wages is also suspended.”

Finland is one of the world’s largest paper producers and, among the three companies, was responsible for producing more than 8.7 million metric tons of pulp in 2021.

Late last year, Wood Central reported that the three forest giants were pivoting from low-value, high-volume paper and pulp to low-volume, higher-value mass timber products due to “poor fundamentals.”

It is not understood what impact, if any, the strikes will have on the global supply chain for paper and pulp products.


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