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Global Unions Representing Sappi Paperworkers Come Together

Press release from the issuing company

ICEM affiliated unions in the paper sector from SouthAfrica, Europe and the United States came together 30-31 March and formed an ICEM Global Union Network of Sappi Workers. Representatives from a dozen paper mills of the Johannesburg-based paper concern met in Bad Munder, Germany, to launch the Network, one of seven such ICEM workers' networks aimed at building cross-border solidarity and mutual support. The Network will be administered by the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers' Union (CEPPWAWU) of South Africa, the ICEM affiliate representing both Sappi's paper and wood sector workers in its home country, and the union representing nearly half of Sappi's 10,000 unionised workers. CEPPWAWU General Secretary Welile Nolingo will serve as the Network's official administrator. The Network resolved at its founding conference to place initial focus on efforts by two unions-CEPPWAWU and the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical, Energy (PACE) Workers Union of the U.S.-to forge better social conditions inside the company. The Network stated Sappi's hard-line bargaining posture in both countries has harmed workers and the communities in which they live. The Network cites Sappi with failing to give black workers full opportunities in South Africa despite moral and legal obligations to do so. In the U.S., PACE has been locked in a longstanding contract dispute with Sappi at a paper mill in Skowhegan, Maine. "We're confident we can develop an extremely effective Network of Sappi workers and their unions which will coordinate our affiliates overall relations with Sappi," said ICEM General Secretary Fred Higgs. "The company inevitably will be aware of the launch of this Network and we hope they recognize the seriousness and determination of the union-organised workers that they employ across the world," Higgs added. Union representatives attending the founding Sappi Network meeting came from Austria, Belgium, Germany, and The Netherlands, in addition to the U.S. and South Africa. Germany's IGBCE, representing Sappi workers at two German paper mills, hosted the Network. Selected to the steering committee was Jan Staal of Algemene Centrale-Centrale Generale (ACCG) of Belgium, representing Sappi's eight European paper mills; Keith Romig of PACE, representing the company's four U.S. mills; and Pasco Dyani of CEPPWAWU, covering Sappi's paper and wood sectors in South Africa. The ICEM's Paper Sector Officer will also sit on the Network's steering committee.