UPM framing strike as force majeure

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Negotiations over the ongoing strike at papermaker UPM in Finland are breaking down, leading to dire warnings, as the paper giant claims it is the victim of a force majeure.

On strike: UPM paper workers
On strike: UPM paper workers

The consequences of the seven-week strike at one of the world’s biggest commercial, publishing and label paper manufacturers are starting to be felt.

Label printers across Europe are now warning of dire consequences for supermarket shelves if the strike continues.

Workers at the half dozen UPM mills have been out on strike since 1 January, and are currently staying out until at least 12 March. The Union and UPM bosses are currently at loggerheads. The UPM workers have been supported by the Finnish electricians union, which has instructed its members not to maintain the mills, and by the transport union, whose members are refusing to move any UPM product.

UPM is framing the situation as force majeure in an attempt to absolve itself of various contract obligations, as it is becoming unable to deliver some stocks. In its contracts strikes are classed as force majeure.

In a letter to its Communications Papers customers UPM said, “this force majeure event will lead to the postponement of certain orders and we will not be able to accept or confirm all additional orders placed for the duration of the strike. We will inform you on a case-by-case basis if your orders are affected.” UPM papers and its Raflatac labelstock are widely used in Australia and New Zealand.

The workers’ union rejects the force majeure concept, saying that there is, “a conflict caused by the company pursuing its ideological objectives”. It is urging UPM customers to reject the force majeure position.

In ANZ, telling Print21 the UPM strike “compounds” ongoing supply issues for the print industry, Tony Bertrand, marketing manager at local UPM distributor Ball & Doggett said the company, “will provide updates to our customers via our normal communication channels and our blog located on our website.”

The strike is already the longest in the history of Finnish papermaking, and has crippled UPM’s ability to get paper out of the country. UPM has told customers it would aim to use external facilities to produce paper, before saying it had “no options” to do that.

The UPM mills impacted by the strike action are:

  • UPM Jämsänkoski (graphic papers including uncoated magazine paper and specialty papers)
  • UPM Kymi (WFC and WFU graphic papers including Finesse and Fine)
  • UPM Kaukas (LWC graphic papers including Ultra and Star)
  • UPM Rauma (LWC magazine papers)
  • UPM Tervasaari (specialty release liner base papers)
  • UPM Raflatac Tampere (labels)

The three pulp mills – UPM Kymi, UPM Pietarsaari and UPM Kaukas – are also subject to the strike, and the UPM Kaukas biorefinery is similarly affected.

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