Employment service and union take Rosa to the cleaners

DN donned its civil rights campaigning hat this week. On Sunday, they highlighted the case of Chilean cleaner Rosa Salazar. Although she's managed to support herself for the vast majority of her 17 years in Sweden, her unemployment insurance fund is refusing to pay up in her hour of need. The reason given was her inability to speak Swedish. A clear case of discrimination said immigrants' rights organisation, Diskrimineringsbyrån, somewhat predictably.

Rosa had been working six hours a day for the past eight years at Handelsbanken’s Hötorget offices. In January she was one of a number of staff to be made redundant by the cleaning company she worked for.

Her unemployment insurance fund, run by the Building Maintenance Workers’ Union, dutifully paid up until September, when the payments were suspended. Now the formal decision has come to stop payments altogether.

The grounds for the decision are that on her visits to the Employment Service in Huddinge, she was completely dependent on an interpreter and a Spanish speaking manager would be necessary at any future employer. She was therefore deemed not to be at the disposal of the job market.

Rosa was advised to apply for state benefits instead.

“But I don’t want to go on welfare,” she told DN, “I want to work.” It’s not a question of money for her, but of dignity.

Juan Fonseca, former member of the Swedish parliament and chairman of Diskrimineringsbyrån, is willing to go to court if necessary to get the decision overturned.

“The right to unemployment insurance can never depend on the ability to speak Swedish,” he said. “If the decision is not changed, it means that immigrants who have worked for many years can lose their rights because they don’t speak very good Swedish. It would be completely absurd.”

DN concluded their article with some odd comments from Eva Ytter, apparently the head of the Building Maintenance Workers’ Union’s unemployment insurance fund:

“I’ve never heard of a case where insurance has been withdrawn because the claimant hasn’t been able to speak Swedish. This woman must get help from the Employment Service to learn Swedish.”

She concluded encouragingly:

“Somebody has to appeal against the decision for the case to land on my desk. It’s possible that an immigrant would not be confident of gaining anything with an appeal.”