Maintaining sound labour relations

Globally, approximately 62% of our workforce is unionised (2016: 60%; 2017: 60%) with 70% belonging to a bargaining unit (2016: 71.5%; 2017: 72.6%).

We recognise the right of employees to collective bargaining and freedom of association in accordance with all relevant local labour legislation. We maintain constructive relationships and partnerships with all representative unions and works councils, who enjoy consultative or negotiating powers on issues of mutual interest, union representatives are present in our formal joint management/worker health and safety committees.

Overall, 2018 was characterised by amicable, but tough negotiations and relatively good relationships with organised labour across the geographies (see Key material issues – Labour relations, for details on our engagement with trade unions in 2018).

Employees belonging to collective bargaining units by region

Employees belonging to collective bargaining units by region | Stats

Ensuring disciplined behaviour

Disciplined behaviour is essential not only for individual wellbeing, but also to ensure our group goals and objectives. In each region, disciplinary codes ensure disciplinary procedures, while grievance policies entrench the rights of employees, including the right to raise a grievance without fear of victimisation, the right to seek guidance and assistance from a member of their Human Resources Department, or their representative, at any time and the right to appeal to a higher body, without prejudice.

We have identified no operations or significant suppliers where the right to exercise freedom of association and collective bargaining has been violated or is at significant risk, nor have we identified operations and significant suppliers as having significant risk for incidents of child labour. Similarly, we have identified no operations and significant suppliers as having significant risk for incidents of forced or compulsory labour, and measures to contribute to the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour.

Butterfly | Image


Communicating operational changes

Operational changes are of key concern to all employees, particularly those represented by trade unions and/or bargaining units.

In terms of career endings, access to retirement planning services is provided on a regional basis and in some instances, this is supported by financial wellbeing programmes. To the extent that there are employee lay-offs, we provide severance pay to all employees and, in some instances, outplacement assistance.

Overall, we aim to communicate any changes to our people timeously and transparently.

In SEU, information about significant operational changes is only communicated when these are concrete enough to enable proper consultation. Finland is the only country in which we operate where the process is followed-through according to a set timeline.

Across all countries, information about significant operational changes needs to be provided at a time when planned changes are concrete enough to inform about reasons for changes, planned measures with impact on employees, number of affected employees and timing, but early enough to still enable a proper consultation.

In SNA, the notice period in terms of Federal Law is 60 days. Details regarding operational changes are not specified in collective bargaining agreements.

In SSA (including Sappi Limited), the implementation of significant operational changes is governed in terms of section 197 and section 189 of the Labour Relations Act, 66 of 1995. The Act does not prescribe a specific notice period in this regard. However, the standard practice is a minimum of 30 days, and a maximum of 60 days’ notice for consultation in case of a large-scale restructuring process. The recognition agreement concluded with the majority union, Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union (CEPPWAWU), recognises the provision of the Act in this regard.

SSA is party to the Bargaining Council for the Wood and Paper Sector as well as forestry within South Africa. In the case of sawmilling and pulp and paper, collective bargaining is conducted at industry level under the auspices of the bargaining council. The Constitution specifies when parties should submit issues of bargaining for the particular year and when the negotiations must commence. Forestry conditions of employment are implemented on 01 April every year and are regulated by ministerial sectoral determination. The normal notice period applies.

Most of the countries in which Sappi Trading is based are not covered in collective agreements except for Austria, Brazil and South Africa. In Austria, the notice period follows labour law and individual employment agreements. In the case of senior and general staff, notice periods of four and three months respectively are required. Based on local legislation, these notice periods increase according to years of service. A notice period is not set up in Collective Labour Agreements. In Brazil, a minimum notice period regarding operational changes is required for large companies, but there is no particular need to communicate to unions in advance.