Stockholm, Sweden, 19 April 2010 -- Negotiations to end a national dispute across Sweden's pulp and paper sector failed last night, 18 April, at midnight when International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) affiliate Svenska Pappers and the employers' Forest Industry Association (SFIF) adjourned bargaining. The two sides were to try again 19 April, at 6 p.m. Central European Time.
The union held true to its promise to strike six pulp and paper mills on 16 April. Those six mills, employing 3000 of Sweden's 18,000 paperworkers, are now facing ongoing strikes. They include Billerud Skarblacka; Holmen Iggesund, Korsnäs Gävle, Stora Enso Skoghall, SCA Packaging Munksund, and Södra Cell Värö.
The central issues are pay and ensuring that Swedish paperworkers receive a 2010 salary increase backdated to 01 April, the expiration date of a three-year contract; items related to a pension scheme; an adequate increase for the lowest paid workers in the industry; and an assurance on union consultation when temporary workers or labor agencies are used for employment.
On 15 April, two days following a marathon bargaining session also failed, the Swedish Paperworkers' Union (Svenska Pappers) announced that workers at six more mills would strike at 6 p.m. on 26 April, if no agreement is made. Those mills include: Smurfit-Kappa Pitea, SCA Obbola, Stora Enso Fors, Korsnäs Frovi, Billerud Gruvon, and Södra Monsteras. Those six mills employ 2800 Pappers members.
In addition, an overtime ban is enforced in the whole paper industry in Sweden, meaning that all paper mills can suffer production stops at any moment.
“It is extremely unfortunate if the Paper Workers Union decides to close down this mill which is very important for Billerud and for our customers. This action will be detrimental for our key customers as well as for employment opportunities at the mill,” said Per Lindberg, Billerud’s president and CEO, before the strike.
Despite the short notice, SCA Containerboard reported having done all possible to arrange its production cycles to minimize the effects on Munksund products; depending on the length of the time of the action, SCA could not rule out a shortage of some grades.
Because of the strike, production at Skärblacka was expected to come to a complete standstill. The loss of production is expected to affect Billerud’s earnings by approximately SEK 3 million per day, and will lead to one-time costs of approximately SEK 2.5 million for firing up and closing down the soda recovery boiler. These costs are exclusive of any compensation that may be received from the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise’s strike fund.
Korsnäs is the only group in Sweden to have its entire cartonboard production affected, should strike contiue past 26 April.
"With the strike now a fact, the Swedish Paper Workers Union is inflicting long-term harm to customer confidence in Korsnäs and the Swedish forest products industry. It threatens the future of the industry, its competitiveness and the jobs of many. These consequences are far more serious than the money lost in the short term," said Christer Simrén, CEO of Korsnäs.
Throughout, the member companies of the Swedish Forest Industries Federation have negotiated with the Swedish Paper Workers Union. The Federation reportedly proposed far-reaching concessions. The union has persisted with its initial bid, with requirements including wage raises considered to be twice as high as in other industrial sectors.
Subjecting all of Korsnäs' production to a strike and the threat of strike also means shutting down large parts of Europe’s production of cartonboard for milk packages, which threatens to cause tangible effects for society within a short space of time, the company noted.
"With yesterday's announcement, the Swedish Paper Workers Union has singled out the entire Korsnäs Group in the conflict. This seems very strange and it is very difficult to comprehend the grounds on which they are attacking an individual company in this way,” Simrén said.
"Everyone knows that the real battle over future jobs and conditions isn't being fought in Sweden but out in the global market in competition with high-tech mills in Asia and on the American continents. Don't they want there to be a pulp and paper industry in Sweden?" Simrén said.