• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Swedish union 'impotent' in Norwegian staff shuffle

Ann Törnkvist · 9 Jan 2014, 10:09

Published: 09 Jan 2014 10:09 GMT+01:00

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." 

Ann Törnkvist (ann.tornkvist@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Joe Biden: 'Sweden has shown great leadership'
Joe Biden, left, and Stefan Löfven. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

US Vice President Joe Biden praised Sweden for "punching way above its weight" in the global refugee crisis.

Nepal's Sherpas rebuild Swedish mountain paths
Kebnekaise, Sweden's highest mountain. Photo: Stockholms Universitet

Nepalese sherpas have been called in to improve hillwalking safety on Sweden's highest mountain Kebnekaise.

23 people tricked into renting the same Malmö apartment
Sweden's housing market is notoriously tricky. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

"I have never felt so stupid and so conned."

Sweden on standby to help earthquake-hit Italy
Rescue workers search through the debris. Photo: AP Photo/Sandro Perozzi

Swedish authorities are ready, if asked, to quickly assist Italy as it recovers from a deadly earthquake.

We harmed Sweden's teachers and should apologize: prof
A tired pupil at a school in Stockholm. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

"The situation is very worrying," says Professor Jonas Linderoth.

US keeper kicked off team for calling Swedes cowards
Hope Solo made her comments after Sweden knocked the US team out of the Olympics. Photo: Eugenio Savio/AP

The US team will be Hope-less for six months.

Five must-see cultural events in Sweden this weekend
Like The Bridge? You'll love one of the events we've picked out for this weekend. Photo: Erland Vinberg/TT

The summer is almost over but Sweden saved the best for last with these cultural events this weekend – including one that will make The Bridge fans happy.

Was there a secret plot to kill Swedish ex-UN chief?
Dag Hammarskjöld, the UN's Secretary General, pictured months before his death in 1961. Photo: TT

Ban Ki-moon wants to find out.

Joe Biden to arrive in Sweden for refugee talks
Stefan Löfven meets Joe Biden during a visit to Washington in March 2015. Photo: Monica Enqvist/Government Offices of Sweden

US Vice President Joe Biden will arrive in Stockholm on Wednesday evening ahead of talks with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven that are expected to focus on migration and refugees.

Boy who attacked goalkeeper 'bet thousands' on game
Photo: Mikael Fritzon/TT

A 17-year-old boy who stormed the pitch and attacked a goalkeeper in Sweden’s top division earlier this month has claimed he had placed a large bet on the result.

Sponsored Article
Malmö to host global skateboard championship
Gallery
People-watching: August 24th
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
The Local Voices
'I want to be a businesswoman but I don’t care about money'
National
Experts: Gothenburg grenade blast is 'part of a cycle of violence'
Blog updates

23 August

A Summer in Sweden (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"For our first year here in Sweden we decided to have all our holidays in Sweden.…" READ »

 

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
The mystique of Asia - in the middle of Stockholm
Gallery
Property of the week: Karlsborg
Sponsored Article
Why you should learn to trade (and just how easy it is)
National
Why Sweden could change its criticised detention laws
National
Watch this dog's reaction when she tries Swedish fermented herring
Gallery
People-watching: August 19th-21st
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
National
How to find student housing in Sweden
Sponsored Article
'Sweden's Lauryn Hill' touches the country's musical soul
National
VIDEO: Swede films first Northern Lights of the season
Gallery
People-watching: August 17th
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Society
Swedish population nears ten million
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
The Local Voices
This Syrian artist found love in a Swedish library
National
Sex pigs halt traffic after laser attack on Pokémon teens. Only in Sweden.
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
Gallery
Property of the week: Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Society
Drunk knight detained in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
Can you solve this Swede's strange Star Wars mystery?
Gallery
People-watching: August 12th-14th
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
National
Swedes cheer first snow of the season
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Gallery
People-watching: August 10th
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
The Local Voices
Syrian presenter: Swedish media should make more shows in Arabic
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Travel
Watch the meteor shower in Sweden
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Lifestyle
How to survive a crayfish party
Gallery
IN PICS: Your Sweden summer snaps
The Local Voices
Gabriel mastered Swedish and got accepted onto a medicine degree in just 7 months
3,361
jobs available