UPM strike to continue into March

Union to extend 5-week strike for another three weeks

UPM extends product portfolio at Jämsänkoski paper mill

The Paperworker’s Union in Finland announced on 4 February 2022 that the UPM plant workers will continue their strike till 12 March if they do not reach a new collective agreement with the company before then. The strike began on 1 January 2022 – exacerbating a difficult situation for paper in Europe that existed even earlier. The union has been negotiating with UPM over pay and other conditions in the paper industry.

It is expected that AKT, the Finnish Transport Workers’ Union, that has blockaded UPM to support the Finnish Paperworkers’ Union is also going on strike from the coming Monday – February 14 to stop all paper shipments from all Finnish mills.

Finnish labor talks have traditionally been across sectors with collective agreements signaling industrial peace between unions and companies. UPM’s representatives say they would prefer to negotiate an agreement unit-by-unit this time as the businesses may differ and from their point of view a single collective agreement is not applicable or desirable. After a meeting last Friday, the Paperworker’s Union announced that it is prepared and willing to negotiate with UPM on a unit by unit basis. The union has already reached an agreement with Stora Enso and the Metsa Group.

UPM is a significant producer of commercial, label, and web offset papers, including several publication grades particularly lightweight coated (LWC) and mediumweight coated (MWC) publishing grades, along with its UPM Raflatac labelstock. Paper distributors around the world are telling printers to ensure they keep abreast of developments.

As we have written earlier, the paper demand and supply situation in Europe and globally has varied from erratic to abysmal with several types of stresses including fuel surcharges and the increase in the cost of containers and their limited availability in the past two years. There is also a considerable restructuring of the industry taking place over the past five years. Many publication paper machines and mills are being shut down totally and others are being re-engineered or replaced by paperboard machines for packaging.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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