Unions threaten action against Alliance

Swedish unions and employers organizations have come to blows after the head of the Swedish Confederation of Trade Unions, LO, threatened to take action if the new government carried out its manifesto promises. The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise in return accused LO of not respecting the election result and not caring about the unemployed.

In an article in Dagens Nyheter on Friday, LO boss Wanja Lundby-Wedin slammed many of the Alliance’s flagship manifesto policies.

In an apparent response to the Alliance’s proposal to reduce unemployment benefits for people who have been out of work for more than nine months, Lundby-Wedin said that if workers “no longer had job security or reasonable benefits when unemployed,” she would demand higher redundancy pay.

“If Swedish wage-earners’ security is endangered, we must act,” she said.

The union boss, who is one of the names tipped as the next Social Democrat leader, also slammed Alliance proposals to reduce employers’ payroll tax for certain workers, which will partly be offset by higher voluntary contributions to unemployment benefit funds:

“If a future government chooses to give this money to certain companies, it will raise demands among many LO-union members and make wage negotiations much more difficult.”

Lundby-Wedin added that the unions had a responsibility to ensure that new jobs were “good jobs”, with employment security, a good working environment and a living wage. She said she trusted that the new government would work for this, rather than “subjecting Sweden to serious conflicts over wage-earners’ security.” Such conflicts, she said, would “seriously damage Sweden.”

Lundby-Wedin’s comments got short shrift from business leaders.

“Her article shows that LO doesn’t respect the election result,” said Urban Bäckström, head of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv), in a statement. He also accused Lundby-Wedin of “not caring about the unemployed.”

“LO is now starting the 2010 election campaign with the same set of ideas: everything’s about handouts, nothing’s about jobs. Is LO’s leadership so blinded by disappointment over no longer having a government that immediately does its bidding that it is ready to forsake everything else to regain power in 2010?”

Urban Bäckström has been named as a possible candidate for the post of finance minister in the new Alliance government.