Swedish union 'impotent' in Norwegian staff shuffle
Ann Törnkvist · 9 Jan 2014, 10:09
Published: 09 Jan 2014 10:09 GMT+01:00
Norwegian's Sweden-based cabin crew, recently moved to a staffing company, have complained that their Swedish union does not have the clout to protect them against the budget airline and the unspoken threat of losing their jobs.
Days before Christmas, Norwegian announced that 52 cabin crew in Sweden would be let go. They would continue working for Norwegian, but via staffing firm Proffice. "All Proffice employees are now scared, we are no longer employed by an airline. When they say jump, we have to say 'How high?'," a cabin crew member, who wanted to remain anonymous, told The Local. "We are all pissed at the union and the fact that they own shares in the staffing firm makes us feel that they aren't listening to us. It's very frustrating; from year to year they are giving us worse conditions." The cabin crew's union, entitled Unionen, is one of the ten biggest share holders in Proffice, the disgruntled employee noted. The latest twist, reported in local media over the festive season, was that the move to Proffice cut three days off a month for the former directly employed cabin staff, despite initial promises that all working conditions would remain unchanged. Twelve days off became nine. Such scenarios have been addressed in a question to the European Commission sent by Swedish Left Part MEP Mikael Gustafsson. "The Temporary Agency Work Directive (2008/104/EC) entered into force in 2008 and was based on the principle of equal treatment," he wrote in the official letter. "In other words, employees of temporary employment agencies should not have less favourable working conditions than employees in the user enterprise." Gustafsson told The Local he found it regrettable that the EU had introduced a temporary workers directive at all, as staffing firms should be regulated on national not union level, but said the current problem was simply that companies based in Sweden were disregarding the 'equal treatment' clause. In other words, staffing companies should uphold domestic laws and standards. The cabin crew member who spoke with The Local touched on the perceived precarity of being at the mercy of company that could simply ship jobs abroad. The employee summed up a lose-lose paradox: While furious that Unionen had not stopped the transfer of jobs to a third-party staffing company, the cabin crew member said the Swedish union's insistence that all airline staff be covered by its collective bargaining agreement jeopardized the existence of their jobs in the long-term - regardless of the EU temporary workers directive. "Unionen is making this profession leave Sweden. They want everyone in Sweden to have the same collective agreement, but Norwegian is a European airline so our organization has a different structure," the employee told The Local. "Because our union won't let go of this thinking, our jobs are going to go abroad." MEP Gustafsson is now awaiting a reply from the Commission. "It's a downward spiral. This kind of (staffing behaviour) forces even 'good' companies to behave badly in order just to compete and survive," Gustafsson told The Local.
Click on the below image to find out how you can submit news stories and tips to The Local.
Representatives at Unionen, meanwhile, have spoken openly about their worries that Norwegian could endanger working conditions. And Rickard Gustaffsson, CEO of Scandinavian airline SAS, one of Norweigian's main competitors, told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper last week that politicians should look into the organizational "grey zone" in which he believed Norwegian was operating. Outsourcing its staff has taken place not only in Stockholm, but also in Bangkok, London, and Malaga, SvD noted this week. While Norwegian has been widely covered in Nordic and international media as a business success story, with the purchase of new planes and the addition of several long-haul routes in recent months, they have not escaped criticism. Union representatives in the US added their voice to the fray on Thursday.
Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), a Washington, DC-based labour organization, said Norwegian had already has a track record of leaving workers in the lurch in its quest for lower labour costs . The business model, which he noted was based on having planes on Ireland, staff in Thailand, and owners in Norway - should be criticized, he told the Norwegian news agency NTB.
"It's designed to do one simple thing. Shop the world for the cheapest possible work force," Wytkind said."And to come to the US and shove out employees."
Swedish police officers patrolling Stockholm. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT
16 hours ago
More than 14,000 foreign nationals told to leave Sweden have instead gone underground, with police saying there is little they can do to enforce deportation orders.
This picture of the boat has more than 14,700 likes on Facebook. Photo: Private
16 hours ago
A Swedish man found Facebook fame after pictures of a giant pirate ship he built for his children when he was on sick leave from work went viral on Friday.
Niklas Zennström, Jane Walerud and Jessica Stark. Photo: SUP46
18 hours ago
A US-born entrepreneur who has helped pave the way for women in tech has joined the ranks of some of Sweden's top innovators and businesspeople in a Swedish startup hall of fame.
Bredbandsbolaget was not compelled to block the Swedish file-sharing site, Pirate Bay. Vilhelm Stokstad / TT
20 hours ago
In a landmark decision, a Swedish court on Friday ruled that the country's internet service providers cannot be forced to block controversial Swedish file-sharing site Pirate Bay.
Swedish police guarding the government building in Stockholm. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
21 hours ago
After Sweden raised its terror threat alert to record high levels last week, more and more police officers on the beat warn that their weapons are not good enough to prevent a potential terror attack.
Children celebrating Lucia in Stockholm. Photo: Jack Mikrut/TT
22 hours ago
A Swedish nursery school has insisted it is not banning a beloved December tradition after a Facebook message posted by a furious parent went viral.
Winter in Sweden presented by Kungsberget
Catch air at the Kungsberget snowpark. File photo: Kungsberget
1 day ago
Not everyone enjoys 8-hour car trips or expensive train tickets just to hit the slopes. That's why so many Stockholmers opt for Kungsberget – the majestic mountain just two hours away. The Local finds out more.
Winter in Sweden presented by Lofsdalen
File photo: Lofsdalen
1 day ago
Sweden has more than a hundred ski resorts – but there’s only one where you can sip your very own cask of whisky on the top of a mountain peak. The Local finds out more about Lofsdalen – one of Sweden’s wildest resorts.
Shoppers at the Walmart chain in the US on Black Friday. Photo: Gunnar Rathbun/Invision for Walmart/AP Images
1 day ago
Stores are pushing to convince Swedish shoppers to embrace US sales day 'Black Friday'. But will the phenomenon catch on?
The Local Recipes
Swedish mulled wine served the traditional way. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT
1 day ago
One drink in particular keeps the Swedes warm in winter: glögg. The beverage has been a Christmas tradition in Sweden since the 1890s. John Duxbury shares his favourite recipe with The Local.