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Union: No breakthrough in talks in Finland over Rakvere strike

"I want to raise a family in Estonia" reads this HKScan employee's sign. February 2018. Source: (Rene Kundla/ERR)

No agreement to end an ongoing strike at Rakvere Meat Processing Plant in Estonia was reached during a meeting between Estonian trade union representatives, the personnel director of Finland's HKScan Group and the chairman and organizational secretary of the Finnish food industry union in Finland on Wednesday, regional daily Virumaa Teataja said.

Estonian Trade Union Confederation (EAKL) secretary Artjom Arhangelski said that their proposal at the meeting, which was also attended by HKScan Estonia CEO Anne Mere, was to first raise the basic wage of the Rakvere plant's slaughter line employees ten percent and begin negotiations in connection to the conclusion of a collective agreement in May. The hope was expressed that the employees and the employer would reach a solution at the beginning of next week.

According to Arhangelski, however, representatives of HKScan did not respond to the proposal and only repeated what they had said previously. "A complete standstill on their part," he stressed.

Employees of the slaughter line of the Rakvere Meat Processing Plant promised to continue with their strike.

Following the meeting, a picket was staged in front of an HKScan production building in Vantaa, a town in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

Thursday's support strike called off

The trade union at the Rakvere plant decided to call off a strike in support of the plant's striking slaughter line workers that was originally slated to begin on Thursday.

20 slaughter line employees, meanwhile, are continuing to strike.

"We adopted such a decision — there are legal nuances involved — that we will continue with only the main strike and will not stage a support strike at this point," Arhangelski told BNS.

Striking workers numbered 20 on Thursday. One of the employees on strike had been hospitalized due to poor health.

Wage dispute nearly four months old

The wage dispute at Rakvere Meat Processing Plant began on Oct. 17, when 27 slaughterhouse employees staged an illegal strike, resulting in the dismissal of three employees. The employees said they were protesting against poor working conditions as well as the stagnation of wages, which have not been raised for the past ten years.

The workers then referred the dispute to the public conciliator, who was unable to reconcile the two parties.

The slaughter line employees of Rakvere Meat Processing plant are demanding a base wage hike of 16 percent as of Feb. 1 and a second 16-percent hike as of July 1. Also demanded in the strike announcement sent to the employer by the unions on Jan. 19 is that the employer not make changes to the way incentive pay is calculated.

According to the unions, this would mean an increase in the workers' base hourly wage to €4.34 as of Feb. 1 and €5.03 as of July 1. Based on the unions' calculations, this should increase slaughter line employees' average monthly wages to €1,079 as of Feb. 1 and €1,195 as of July 1.

HKScan Estonia, meanwhile, announced that they have decided to increase the entire company's payroll by five percent in the second quarter.

Employees of the plant began an open-ended strike on Tuesday after a final attempt at talks on Feb. 1 failed.

HKScan Group is a Nordic meat producer which produces and markets pork, beef, poultry, mutton, processed meat as well as ready-made food. While it saw €1.8 billion on revenue, the company posted a loss of €18 million last year. HKScan Group also includes HKScan Estonia, which in turn owns Rakvere Meat Processing Plant and poultry producer Tallegg.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS, ERR

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