Mass resignations hit government relocations

The Swedish government's controversial decision to move 19 agencies from Stockholm to towns hit by defence cutbacks is resulting in a wave of resignations - often of the most highly skilled staff.

In January the government announced plans to relocate around 3,000 staff from the capital in an attempt to soften the economic blow to regions around the country where Ministry of Defence installations are being shut down.

Despite warnings of a “brain drain” the moves are now beginning. One of the agencies affected is the Swedish Consumer Agency, whose 190 civil servants are due to move to Karlstad.

But 10 of 40 lawyers have already resigned. The organisation’s general director, Karin Lindell, told Swedish Radio that this would have a direct effect on the service provided.

“Yes, we’re beginning to feel it. Many of my skilled colleagues are resigning – obviously that will have an influence,” she said.

“We’re not going to be able to recover this competence immediately.”

At the time the changes were announced, the Moderate party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt argued that the government should instead make it easier for small companies to establish themselves in rural areas, and that large state agencies should stay put.

“For some it feels like an upheaval to rip up roots and move to other parts of the country. It seems so easy to treat people like bricks,” he said.

Staff at the Swedish Social Insurance Administration (Försäkringskassan) apparently agree.

The organisation is due to split around 500 Stockholm-based civil servants among Östersund (500km north of the capital), Arvidsaur (another 500km further north) and the island of Gotland.

Agneta Jönk, the personnel director at the Social Insurance Administration, told Swedish Radio that she reckoned only 5% would actually make the move.

The chairman of the Union of Civil Servants, Annette Carnhede, said that the quality of work carried out by the affected organisations would inevitably fall.

“Service is going to get worse in the state sector,” she said.

“Unfortunately it could be the case for several years – and that’s serious because in these situations the confidence in the state’s activities is affected.”

Sources: SR