UPM fires sawmill shop steward

Helsinki (16.04.2021 – Heikki Jokinen) Forestry giant UPM has dismissed the salaried employees’ shop steward at the Kaukas sawmill, according to the Trade Union Pro.

UPM labour market policy has reached the very depths of irresponsiblity, says Pro President Jorma Malinen. The Employment Contracts Act guarantees protection against shop steward dismissal, as well as the valid collective agreement.

“Prior to the sacking UPM Kaukas sawmill management insisted that there was nothing personal in the decision. Therefore, this can only be interpreted as a broad attempt to undermine the trade union  movement”, Malinen says.

In February, UPM said it will unilaterally refuse to engage in all collective bargaining for its salaried employees in Finland. This will happen when the existing collective agreements expire at the end of this year and in February 2022.

UPM views the shop steward dismissal as being legal, and says that it is connected with closing one production line at the sawmill and with a “renewal of the management model”. Kaukas sawmill is one of the largest sawmills in Finland.

Trade Union Pro demands legal amendments to make it possible to impose considerable fines commensurate with company size and turnover for companies blatantly breaking the law. The employee representatives need better protection if collective bargaining is to take place increasingly at company level.

“If it is easier for companies that make billions of profit to pay compensation than to abide by legislation and collective agreements, it is pointless to set our hopes too high with regards to local agreements in the future”, Malinen says.

Towards unilateral dictating

The trade union confederation STTK considers UPM’s move as ominous, too. This seems to be a continuation of the position earlier announced whereby the forest industries said it was withdrawing from sector specific collective bargaining in favour of company level agreements, says STTK Director of Advocacy, Minna Ahtiainen.

“Now, with the dismissal of the shop steward UPM aims at removing even the preconditions for company level agreements and seeks to proceed from making agreements to unilaterally imposing terms by the employer”, she adds.

Ahtiainen stresses that the freedom to organise, the right to elect a shop steward and protection of the employees’ representative has been guaranteed in many international agreements and conventions.

“In Finland, a shop steward election and involvement at the workplace is central to putting the principle of freedom to organise into practice.”

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