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Minister in EU withdrawal "threat"

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20:04 CET+01:00
Minister for Employment, Hans Karlsson, believes that there will be widespread calls for Sweden to leave the EU if construction workers' union, Byggnads, loses the Vaxholm case in the EU court. But critics say that Karlsson is avoiding demands to reveal if that's his own view too.

Today the government submitted the details of their position on the Vaxholm case to the EU court. The minister for employment is certain that the government will be supported by the court.

"I'm completely confident that Swedish legislation is in line with European law. That means that trade unions have the right to demand collective agreements with the same conditions as apply to Swedish employers and to take industrial action in order to obtain such agreements," said Karlsson.

The case concerns last winter's conflict between Byggnads and the Latvian construction company, Laval un Partneri. Laval were awarded the contract to rebuild a school in Vaxholm, but the work was blocked by Byggnads and Laval's Swedish subsidiary went bust.

One of the key issues is how the right to take industrial action sits with EU law. Laval had signed a collective agreement in Latvia and Byggnads' critics claim that the blockade led to the Latvian agreement being "brushed aside."

Hans Karlsson is convinced that disappointment will be great in many quarters in Sweden if the EU court's decision is in any way unfavourable towards Byggnads.

"I wouldn't like to guess what the reaction would be," said Karlsson.

But he avoids answering the question whether he personally believes Sweden should leave the EU if the court decision goes against the union.

"That question will be raised, I'm quite certain about it. Swedish workers will be disappointed to say the least. There are a lot of people out there who voted for EU entry in the belief that the Swedish model would stay intact," said Karlsson.

Christian Democrats' second vice chairman, Mats Odell, has criticised Karlsson's position and thinks that the minister is effectively making a threat.

"The minister for employment, Hans Karlsson, is not ruling out the possibility of Sweden leaving the EU if the court decision goes against the government. That constitutes threatening language from the Swedish government coinciding with the handing over of their position in the Vaxholm case to the court in Luxemburg," said Odell.

"The minister must immediately clarify whether the government is prepared to withdraw Sweden from the EU on this issue if we are to avoid creating an international scandal," continued Odell.

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