Major printers have expressed concern about industrial action by logistics and transport workers affecting UPM, Stora Enso and Mëtsa Group in Finland, which could disrupt supply chains for label and packaging stocks.

Logistic and transport workers have started a two-week strike from the 11 March to 25 March 2024 from ports in Finland. Viking Line’s cargo handling operations will stop in the ports of Helsinki and Turku. The industrial action also affects Neste Corporation’s storage operators in the tanker and oil products sector of the Finnish Transport Workers’ Union (AKT), with stevedoring jobs, including subcontracting also affected.  

UPM, Stora Enso and Mëtsa Group has stated that they themselves are not on strike but say the plants can’t operate due to the walkout by transport and logistics workers. The political strikes are reflective of the workers continued disagreement over the Finnish government’s proposed changes to labour market legislation.

Ingrid Peura, Stora Enso’s head of media relations, told DLP, ‘Where possible, transportations were advanced to leave Finland prior to the strikes. We are doing our utmost to serve our customers. However, the strikes may cause delays or changes to customer deliveries.’

Dr Adrian Steele, Mercian Labels’ managing director, provided his thoughts on the situation. He said, ‘Whilst initially only two weeks long, any ongoing disruption to the European label stock supply chain from the Finish transport sector strike will be very damaging to the label industry in 2024. Our reputation amongst brand owners hasn’t fully recovered yet from the very damaging 2022 UPM strikes!’

Cees Schouten, Geostick’s operations director, added, ‘The situation is that due to the strike in the ports, the paper mills don’t get their pulp. This is of course getting ridiculous. It is time for the EU to come up with a plan, together with the Finnish government, to take away this striking mentality.

‘For now, I don’t see any signs that we are going to return to the 2022 situation, and to be honest, if it does, that will be a disaster. Until now we hadn’t received any communication that there will be shortages again.’

As referred to prior, strikes from workers in pulp and paper mills occurred from 1 January 2022 to 22 April 2022, the longest industrial strike in Finland. The strikes covered UPM Pulp, UPM Communication Papers, UPM Specialty Papers, UPM Raflatac and UPM Biofuels units in Finland. As per statistics provided by UPM in 2022, approximately 200 union members who worked at mills in tasks ‘critical’ to society, such as power plants and water treatment facilities, were on strike which effected supply to businesses across Europe.

Despite the announcement of the worker’s walkout, Dr Steele remained optimistic about the short-term effects. He concluded, ‘The supply chain is pretty well stocked at present which will minimise any short-term impact, but we’ll be keeping a very close eye on any indications that this is going to impact us, and act accordingly.’