Social Democrat cutbacks cause dilemma

Sweden's Social Democrats are in negotiations to find a way around strict employment protection laws that the party strongly defended at the recent election.

The election defeat means that 40 out of 130 party staff employed at the Riksdag will be made redundant. But the party is reluctant to part with experienced former political advisers, who were moved to parliament from government departments after the party lost the election.

Sweden’s employment protection laws stipulate that employers must follow a last-in-first-out policy. The former political advisers were last in, a fact that is putting the party in a quandry.

Social Democrat officials are now trying to find a legal way round the last-in-first-out rule.

“It’s a long time since we ran an opposition administration. We are negotiating now over which competences we need,” said Åsa Larsson, head of the Social Democrats’ parliamentary office. Larsson emphasised the party’s need to be a flexible organisation.

The subject is a sensitive one. Malin Axelsson, chairwoman of the union organization at the Riksdag offices, said she wouldn’t comment on how the party would retain key workers while following the law.

“Negotiations are ongoing,” she said.

The question is particularly delicate following angry attacks on the Centre Party by Social Democrats after the former suggested weakening employment protection. Those who wish to weaken employment protection have often argued that reforms are needed to increase flexibility.

Britt Bohlin Olsson, the Social Democrat group leader in the Riksdag, would not comment on TT’s reports.

Government politicians have been quick to point out the difficulties for the Social Democrats’.

“Year in and year out, companies and public sector employers – at least those outside the labour movement – have been forced to lay off key workers because of employment protection laws,” said Liberal MP Carl B Hamilton.

“Many of us have for this reason, among others, demanded a reform of the laws to make it possible to adapt operations to new circumstances. This is something the Social Democrats have vehemently opposed.”

Centre Party MP Fredrik Federley also reacted strongly to the news.

“If even Social Democrats can’t follow the employment protection laws without special negotiations, it shows clearly that the whole area of employment protection law needs reviewing,” he said.