Swedish court backs action against Latvian builders

The Swedish Labour Court has backed a trade union in its blockade of a building site outside Stockholm, where Lativian builders are working.

The Byggnads union, which represents Swedish builders, has objected to the presence of builders from Latvian company Laval on a building site in Vaxholm, where they are working on the construction of a school. The union says that the Latvians have not signed a Swedish collective agreement, and should therefore not be allowed to carry out work in Sweden.

Byggnads has been blockading the site in Vaxholm since November. Laval had hoped that the Labour Court would find that the blockade was illegal, but the court ruled that it could continue until the whole matter of the Lativians’ legal rights in Sweden were clarified in future hearings.

The Labour Court, which is dominated by representatives of trade unions and employers organizations, was divided in its decision. Dagens Nyheter reported that union representatives on the tribunal supported Byggnads, whereas the two representatives of the employers’ organizations found in favour of the Latvian company.

The case has the potential to pit European laws on the free movement of labour against the Swedish tradition of collective agreements. Both sides were therefore keen to talk up their arguments following the decision.

Hans Tilly, chairman of Byggnads, told Svenska Dagbladet that the decision from the Labour Court bodes well for the union movement, as they face up to future court battles:

“The reasons behind the court’s decision indicate that we are in the right” he said, “Even those members of the court that found against us did not say that we were breaking EU law.”

But Laval’s lawyer, Anders Elmér, was quick to point out that this was simply an interim decision. He maintained that the court had stuck to the Swedish rules, and had not given the necessary attention to EU law. Elmér also said it was unlikely that his client would be signing up to the Swedish Model any time soon:

“We’ll talk it over, and go through what has happened,” he said, “but I find it hard to believe that they’ll sign an agreement.”

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet