Foreign owners make their
in the Finnish paper industry
Helsinki (18.04.2013 - Heikki Jokinen) Some 40
paper, paperboard and pulp factories in Finland are now owned by foreign
companies. The problems facing the traditionally strong Finnish paper
industry together with major investments by Finnish forest industry
companies abroad have provided an opening for new investors in Finland
At the beginning of last
year these foreign owned companies employed 3.688 permanent workers and a
further 187 in temporary jobs. By the end of June 2012 the number of
permanent workers in the paper, paperboard and pulp industry in Finland was
14.210 with 3.236 temporary workers.
Paperiliitto, the magazine
of the Finnish Paper Workers' Union, looked at changes on the floor level in
the foreign owned factories. The article is written by the Finnish
freelancer Matti Remes. The shop stewards interviewed reported no major conflicts, but
there are often differences in management culture.
"Sometimes it is difficult
to deal with the employer, as we have Finnish law and they are going by USA
law. This creates differences in views", says shop steward, Timo Pulli from
the US owned CP Kelco pulp factory in Äänekoski.
The major change Pulli
noticed is the intensified focus on labour safety. "To use helmet and safety
glasses become immediately obligatory. Reporting on labour safety has also
increased." This has led to a smaller number of work accidents than ever.
Another US owned company
is Kotkamills, which runs the Kotka paper factory. Stora Enso sold the
factory in 2010 to the OpenGate Capital investment company. Shop steward
Ville Ropponen tells the Paperiliitto magazine that the major changes were
lay offs of 13 workers immediately and "cutting the umbilical cord to the
previous owner in all our actions". In March this year Kotkamills announced
the lay off of 45 workers that led to a one-day strike.
The former M-Real pulp
factory Savon Sellu in Kuopio has been from 2005 part of the business empire
of Irish investor Dermot Smurfit. Shop steward Eero Ahonen sees the major
difference since the change in ownership is that profit is kept in focus at
all times. This has also meant new investments. "Without a foreign owner
Savon Sellu would probably no longer be operating." After 2005 the number of
employees has been trimmed down from 260 to 180.
South African Sappi took
over the Kirkniemi paper factory in Lohja in 2009. The factory director
Martti Savelainen also says that the major change can be seen in labour
safety. It receives priority in reporting and at internal meetings, he says.
Overall reporting has also grown, but if things are running smoothly, the
owner does not interfere in how the factory is run.
Some of the shop stewards
raise the issue of language barriers as being a problem. Finnish Ahlstrom
and Japanese Nippon Paper Industries jointly own the Kauttua paper factory
in Eura. "The Japanese are in charge of everything here", says shop steward
Jukka Virta. All the main directors are Japanese. "Co-operation with them
has been working quite well, but language problems make it difficult to keep
The new owner has brought
fresh investment and production at the Kauttua factory is now more varied
than before. "So a small factory such as this would probably not be able to
stay alive without the input of Japanese know-how", Virta adds.