Borg: unions will alienate their members

Sweden's biggest trade unions should back, and not protest against, a reform package proposed by the government that includes cuts in benefits, finance minister Anders Borg said in an interview published in the Financial Times on Thursday.

“Union members should be interested in our programme of tax cuts, tightened benefits and increased labour demand … Wage earners in an average household will receive between 500 kronor and 1,000 kronor more a month,” Anders Borg told the newspaper.

“These are policies that are beneficial to the ordinary working man,” he added, warning that the unions risked alienating their members if they persisted in opposing the plans.

The package also includes lowering unemployment and sickness benefits – though official figures put the jobless rate at 5.6 percent in August, experts reckon that a fifth of Swedes of working age live on state subsidies, either claiming unemployment, sick leave or early retirement payments or are on government retraining schemes.

LO, which represents 15 Swedish trade unions with a combined 1.83 million members, is planning demonstrations in the country’s biggest cities on December 14 to protest against the plans.

The finance minister also confirmed that he is examining proposals to offer an amnesty on 800 billion kronor that has been sent out of Sweden to avoid paying the wealth tax.

Though he plans to cut the tax in half, he may approve the amnesty which, it has been argued, could be used to finance new businesses in the country.