Negotiations succeed in the paper sector

The Paperworkers' Union delayed its ratification of Finland's new central incomes policy agreement beyond the deadline on 11 December 1997. However, the union succeeded in resolving a dispute on outsourcing, and was subsequently able to endorse the central deal.

Finland's central social partner organisations reached a national incomes policy agreement for 1998-2000 in early December 1997 (FI9801145F). The deal required approval by the member organisations of the signatory confederations, and a deadline of 11 December was set for the completion of this ratification process. The settlement was threatened by the failure of the Paperworkers' Union (Paperiliitto) - which is considered a key union in the incomes policy deal - to meet the deadline, as it sought the resolution of outstanding sectoral issues. However, a truce was later achieved in the paper industry, with the union prevailing on employers to maintain the current position on "outsourcing", allowing the ratification of the central agreement. The Paperworkers' Union is an affiliate of the SAK confederation.

The key issue that the Paperworkers' Union insisted should be resolved arose from the local dispute at the Nokia papermill, which caused a wave of strikes in autumn 1997 (FI9709132F). The dispute centred on the question of which collective agreement should cover subcontracted maintenance workers at the plant, with their employer, ABB Service, advocating that they should be transferred from the coverage of the paperworkers' agreement to that of the metalworking sector. An agreement was reached in September 1997, and ABB Service now offered a prolongation of this deal, while the union demanded application of the paper sector collective agreement.

The whole incomes policy agreement hung in the balance because of this dispute, and the national conciliator, Juhani Salonius, had to make a proposal for a settlement This was later approved by the trade union.

The difference between the new agreement for the maintenance workers and the earlier one is that the signatory on the employees' side is the local trade union, which is under the control of the national union. According to the Paperworkers' Union, this strengthens the character of the collective agreement. The national union continues as the signatory for collective agreements at the Nokia papermill. Further, some changes concerning bonuses and the status of shop stewards were agreed.

The Paperworkers' Union had also demanded that the biggest forestry industry companies should cancel their decision to run down their personnel funds (a form of profit-sharing scheme). This demand was resolved in the incomes policy agreement by putting the issue into the hands of tripartite working group, which is to consider the need for research concerning personnel funds and payment-by-result schemes. This working group is strongly supported by the Government.

The union had also demanded that during recessions employees should be provided with training instead of being laid off. Now it has been agreed that lay-offs will be resorted to "only under extremely exceptional circumstances". The employers have promised to try to offer training or other tasks if employees' "own" work is diminishing.

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