Staff welfare services

The welfare office system had originated in the American business world, and was already adopted by the largest Finnish companies at the beginning of the 1930s. United Paper Mills Oy Jämsänkoski mills welfare office was opened in 1932. The task of company welfare offices was to assist in their employees' housekeeping and to encourage them to a thrifty way of life. The welfare office deducted the agreed payments, such as taxes and insurance, from the worker's wages. Funds saved in the United welfare offices attracted interest at one percent over the prevailing commercial bank interest rate.

Jämsänkoski factories welfare services office in the 1940s. Tellervo Nikkilä and Aino Metsäaho.From 1947, company welfare services offices started awarding loans for young people who had gained entry to technical colleges and forestry schools. Children of staff took priority in loan allocation. The loan had to be repaid three years after completion of the course. The recipient of the loan had to commit to service at the company for at least two years. Welfare services offices also granted short-term credit for their members. Decisions on loans were made by the director of the factory in question.

The deposits of company welfare services offices were also used to award mortgages, in other words the company was able to finance house building activity without tying up its own capital. Provision of loans became the most important function of the offices. The loans were particularly significant after the war, when building was buoyant, but their importance was still great in the 1950s and 60s.

The loan term was initially 20, then 15 years. The interest rate was the same as the services office savings rate, which e.g. in the 1950s was 6 - 7 percent. The loan would cover about a third of the actual building costs. By the end of the next decade, the proportion of the loan was only a fifth of the house acquisition price. Deposits at the services offices set a ceiling on granting of mortgages. The Jämsänkoski factory welfare services office closed down in 1984.

The welfare inspector

United Paper Mills Oy social services were organised towards the end of the 1920s, when Lilli Vuorela, Finland's first inspector of women's occupations, was appointed the welfare services inspector for both United and Ab Walkiakoski. The Jämsänkoski factory welfare services inspector, Irja Aarnio, MA, took up her post in 1936. The primary task of welfare services inspectors was prevention of accidents in the mills. They initiated setting up of safety committees in workplaces, organisation of first aid courses and keeping of accident statistics. The results were soon visible as reduction of accidents in the mills

Of United mill villages, the poorest housing situation was at Jämsänkoski in the 1930s. The majority of workers lived in rented one-room homes.A second area of work of the welfare services inspector was education outside the factories. Matters of health, cleanliness and hygiene were little known in many worker homes and parasites were common. Young people at best working age died of tuberculosis. Jämsänkoski tuberculosis statistics were the most sombre of all United mill locations. Overcrowding and poor hygiene played a part in this. Instruction and notes of complaint directed especially at housewives brought about improvements in the order and cleanliness of homes. The inspectors also submitted proposals on repairs of company housing.

After the war, the welfare services function became wide-ranging social work, and the title of welfare services inspector became that of social services manager. Their personnel included home economics advisors, male and female social officers, community nurses and sports instructors. In the post-war conditions, employers considered the function more important than ever before. Alleviation of material poverty was of primary importance, but mental caring was needed too. They wanted to organise sports events and cultural and leisure activities. Social activities organised by companies had their heyday from the 1940s to the latter part of the 1960s. In the organisational reforms of the 1970s, the United social departments became personnel departments taking care of personnel issues.

Holidays organised by the company

Summer holidays of industrial workers, initially only a week long, had started in the 1920s. In the next decade the United social services began to arrange holiday facilities for its staff. The 1939 legislation on annual holidays made holidays longer. Over twenty years, United acquired around forty holiday cabins and group accommodation properties for use of its staff in the vicinity of its mill locations. Families with children and those with long service records had priority in using the chalets.

The Lehes area on Lake Päijänne was purchased for Jämsänkoski factory staff, and a villa, granary and sauna were built there. In 1948 three two-family holiday chalets and communal accommodation were added. The villa building housed a dining hall. A few more holiday cabins were added at Kankarisvesi. From the 1960s, excursions were also made to Linnasaari island in Päijänne, bought by the company for staff recreational activities. Communal accommodation and holiday chalets for rent were built there, too, for staff use.

Mothers’ holiday camp participants arriving at Haukilahti school in 1960.Organised holiday activity included rest breaks intended for mothers of large families. Every year, around twenty mothers spent a week or two at full board. At first the holidays were arranged at Lomaliitto holiday villages, and later at Haukilahti forestry school.

United’s holiday cabin in Lapland was built in Keimiöniemi, Muonio, in 1952. The activity now covered all kinds of excursions and holiday recreation. The Keimiö cabin was a popular holiday destination all the year round.

Activities for pensioners

Honorary Mining Counsellor Juuso Walden initiated pensioners' workshops, modelled on an English idea, in United's mill villages and towns. The aim was to give every company pensioner the opportunity of working to the degree that each was able, and thus earn extra income to supplement their pensions. The other objective of the activity was to aid pensioners' mental well-being.

The Jämsänkoski workshop was established in 1958. It operated in the main building of the former Hovila farm. The number of participants varied between 30 and 40. Women's work included finishing off writing pads from the processing section and various sewing jobs. The men did various kinds of metal and woodwork. The workshops operated a five-day working week and a seven-hour day. The wages were paid at piece rates at first, but later changed to hourly rates. The wages earned did not initially reduce the amount of the pensions, but in the 1970s the situation changed and workshop activity ended in 1977.

Jämsänkoski factories’ pensioners on a trip to Lehes in 1955.Jämsänkoski pensioners were also treated to annual summer trips, usually to the company holiday complex in Lehes or to Haukilahti school. In December every year, there was a Christmas party for the pensioners. The Työn Äärestä magazine was distributed also to pensioners' homes, and company representatives called to congratulate pensioners on important birthdays. The last service of the company to its employee was money for the coffin and a funeral wreath.