• Sweden edition
 

Christian firms: Bible bans trade unions

Published: 19 Dec 2006 17:24 GMT+01:00
Updated: 19 Dec 2006 17:24 GMT+01:00

In early October the Swedish Forest and Wood Workers' Union placed a blockade on two companies that have refused to sign collective bargaining agreements.

But the companies say that their religious beliefs prevent them from entering into agreements with third parties and have no intention of signing.

"They are trying to squeeze us as hard as they can," Olle Malmström, one of the owners of Ji-Ma Produkter, told The Local.

"It has affected us but we are still struggling along," he added.

The two wood packaging companies Ji-Ma Produkter and Skandro Trade are run by families belonging to the Plymouth Brethren religious movement.

The movement bases its reluctance to enter into third party agreements on the Bible, or more specifically, 2 Corinthians 6:14:

"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?"

Aside from his biblical reservations, Olle Malmström also laments Sweden's lack of employment laws more generally.

"There is no minimum wage, for example. Instead there is the so-called Swedish model, or the socialist model as we call it," he said.

The Swedish model, as it relates to the labour market, emerged from negotiations between the Confederation of Trade Unions and the precursor to the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise in 1938.

The resultant 'Saltsjöbaden agreement' meant that employers and trade unions set wages in accordance with collective bargaining agreements for each respective industry.

This consensual arrangement has dictated employment policy ever since.

"We can't sign because of our beliefs, which are holy to us.

"And the trade unions can't understand us, because the collective agreements are holy to them," said Malmström.

The Forest and Wood Workers' Union first got wind of Ji-Ma in January, when they claim some other local companies informed them that the company was underpaying its workers.

Local trade union ombudsman Per-Åke Pålsson admits that this later proved not to be the case. The company meets all the wage criteria stipulated in the collective agreement.

But a temporary employee unwittingly threw a spanner in Ji-Ma's works.

"We had a worker who was foreign and wasn't sure he was going to be able to stay in the country. He was from Baghdad," said Malmström.

Ji-Ma told the man they would consider taking him on more permanently if he managed to attain a visa. In the meantime he was signed up to Alfa-Kassa, a non-union employment insurance scheme.

When the man paid a visit to local authorities in Gislaved, Malmström says that a woman helped him to sign an A-Kassa agreement, despite the fact that he already had insurance coverage.

But Per-Åke Pålsson disputes Malmström's version of events.

"Gislaved's municipality does not have those forms. We have them here," he said.

Because the A-Kassa employment insurance system is tied to the trade unions, Ji-Ma soon received a letter requesting a meeting. And the threat of a blockade for failure to sign a collective bargaining agreement soon loomed large.

The temporary worker subsequently put in a request to be removed from the trade union register, but the local ombudsman suspects foul play.

"We think the company talked to him and suggested that he leave the union. But we don't know for sure," said Pålsson.

The company's contract with the part-time employee ran out earlier this year. But by then the damage was done.

"The union leaders in Stockholm told us to put the company under blockade," said Pålsson.

Although none of Ji-Ma's employees are affiliated to a trade union, the Forest and Wood Workers' Union began its blockade on October 9.

The Transport Workers' Union and the Metal Workers' Union subsequently signed up to sympathy strikes, which has had an impact on Ji-Ma's deliveries.

In the early stages of the strike, Skandro Trade, also owned by members of the Plymouth Brethren movement, attracted the attention of the trade union.

"After two weeks we saw that Skandro Trade was getting a lot more work and realised that the two companies must have come to some agreement," said Pålsson.

Neither party can foresee an end to the strike action.

"They have told us they would rather close down than sign the collective agreement," said Pålsson.

When we call back to try to get a comment from Ji-Ma's former worker, Olle Malmström is livid to hear of the union man's suspicions.

"Pålsson is a liar from beginning to end.

"But one day he will have to stand before the judge," he said.

Does he mean a judge in a court of law?

"No, the one above," said Malmström with a laugh.

According to the owner, the company's former worker has already met a television crew and is not interested in speaking to any more media.

"He has come from a war and does not need all this.

"He's very sad about it. He is now in school to learn Swedish," said Malmström.

How is the man currently supporting himself?

"He's working black for a local company that has a collective agreement. Pålsson knows about it too," said Malmström.

"Pålsson only has one thing in his head, which is collective agreements.

"He will not be happy until we have signed. It's really communist.

But what will happen if the union blockade results in Ji-Ma having to close its factory?

"Close the factory? Then they will probably have to shoot me as well.

"We will have no problem surviving. A lot of people sympathise with us.

"As this begins to get publicity what we hope is that more genuine people in the union will see that this is crap," said Malmström.

Paul O'Mahony (paul.omahony@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right
Today's headlines
Stockholm Pride 2014
Stockholm Pride bars Sweden Democrats
Photos: Henrik Montgomery/Fredrik Persson/TT

Stockholm Pride bars Sweden Democrats

While a record number of ministers and party leaders will participate in the Stockholm Pride Parade this year, there are notable exceptions - including SD leader Jimmie Åkesson, who is not only 'uninterested' but banned. READ  

Gender neutral 'hen' enters dictionary
Soon 'hen' will be found on this page. Photo: The Local

Gender neutral 'hen' enters dictionary

The ever-controversial pronoun 'hen' has won its battle and is set to officially become part of the Swedish language. READ  

Pines, polska and magic: Urkult Music Festival
Photo: Danny Chapman/The Local

Pines, polska and magic: Urkult Music Festival

The Urkult music festival in northern Sweden may be less sex, drugs and rock'n'roll and more family fun, chai and polska dancing - but Danny Chapman says it’s one of the most magical Swedish experiences he has had. READ  

Presented by Stockholm Business Region
Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm
You want one of these. Photo: Skatteverket

Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm

When it comes to data-driven life, from daycare to healthcare, Sweden is in a league of its own. Above all, your personal number is the key that unlocks life in Stockholm. READ  

In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån

In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week

All aboard! We're off to the island of Gotland for our Property of the Week - a home right in the heart of Medieval Visby. Whether you're looking to buy or dying to look - this is the place for you. READ  

Stockholm Pride 2014
Stockholm Pride glides into seventeenth year
Stockholm Pride. Photo: Erik Mårtensson/TT

Stockholm Pride glides into seventeenth year

The largest pride festival in Scandinavia is back for the 17th year in a row. The week promises to be packed with activities - and a glamorous opening gala with Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst. READ  

Preschool teacher arrested for child rape
Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Preschool teacher arrested for child rape

A man has been arrested on the suspicion of raping a child at the preschool where he is employed. READ  

Police arrest 17 people after fatal shooting
Police at the scene. Photo: Niklas Luks/TT

Police arrest 17 people after fatal shooting

Seventeen people were arrested during the early hours of Tuesday after a man was shot dead in central Sweden. Several of the suspects were already known to the police for gang crimes. READ  

Cops find 15kg cocaine stash in woman's car

Cops find 15kg cocaine stash in woman's car

A 35-year-old woman faces charges for aggravated narcotic crimes after police found 15 kilogrammes of unusually high-concentrated cocaine in her car. READ  

Opinion
The top six ways the US and Sweden differ

The top six ways the US and Sweden differ

Back home in the US and with a solid Swedish stint under his belt, contributor Steven Schier has listed what he thinks are the six biggest differences between Sweden and the states. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Skatteverket
Sponsored Article
Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching, June 26th - 28th. Get inside Stockholm's hottest nightclubs
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Blog updates

27 July

Approaching Stockholm (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I woke up in the comfort of my own little cabin on Eva and Rolf’s boat, it was 7:30am and I was feeling a bit groggy after a couple of beers with all the lovely locals the night before. The previous day had really taken its toll on my body and I was very stiff and..." READ »

 

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 
 
 
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Society
What's On in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

732
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se