Union leader on UPM's logger policy:
"This deserves to be categorised as white slave trade"
Helsinki (31.08.2012 - Juhani Artto) Sakari Lepola, the President of the
Wood and Allied Workers' Union, is incensed by what he discovered on a
recent visit to
UPM's mill and forests in Rauma, a coastal city in Western
Finland. This anger was provoked by the double-standard being employed by
multinational in regard to its personnel policy.
From the point of view of a trade unionist, superficially at least, the
situation at the mill was
satisfactory. Cooperation between the management and the employees was
smoothly, and in contrast to many other companies, maintenance work had not
been outsourced. Within the walls or confines of the mill the company seems
understand the value of its workforce, Lepola writes in Särmä, the union
magazine. "This is how a large multinational company should
But on venturing into the forest - a short trip from the mill - Lepola felt he
had taken a step into the past. Lepola, a former
logger himself, says it was hard to believe that he was
still visiting the same company. "How can the values of a company operating
forest differ so dramatically from the values just a few kilometers away at
mill “, he wonders.
When it comes to forest work, UPM and its forest management company Silvesta
operate an entirely different regime, whereby there is no direct employment
relationship between company and workers.
Work is offered only to people working on an
entrepreneurial basis. Lepola was informed that this kind of procedure is "a
flexible way" of getting the work done.
"Yes, flexible indeed, as the worker has to be flexible concerning his/her
holiday pay, bonuses, sick leave compensation and anything else where
the collective agreement and the legislation regulate minimum standards. And
there is a clear downside when it comes to employment security. When a
logger is laid off or his/her services are no longer needed he or she does
not get the same compensation as those who were in an employment
the company on becoming unemployed.
Lepola's list is long when he comes to describing how differently the
treats persons in employment relations and individuals who have the status
of an entrepreneur or who are self-employed.
He is angry not just because of the double-standard UPM has adopted but also
because this is a fairly new development in the Finnish forest industry.
"Suddenly, we have moved a hundred years backwards", Lepola laments.
According to him this can be justly called the "white slave trade" as these
not voluntarily chosen to work as such…as entrepreneurs or self-employed
have been left with no alternative.
Lepola is demanding that this "one type of human trafficking" should be
prohibited by legislation.