Union begins salad bar blockade

The Swedish Hotel and Restaurant Union today started its blockade of a salad bar in Gothenburg when the owner refused to sign a collective bargaining agreement.

“I only have one person who I employ on an hourly basis when the need arises. And I pay above the wage in the collective agreement,” said restaurant owner Sofia Appelgren.

The action is part of a local campaign by the union which so far has resulted in 39 new agreements in the Linnéstaden district.

“We are then going to move on to Haga, Vasastan and the city centre,” said union ombudsman Dan Fransson.

He described the lack of wage agreements in many restaurants as a major problem.

“This line of business can’t continue behaving in such a shoddy manner,” said Fransson.

As an example he mentions employees who are only earning 40 kronor an hour instead of the regulated minimum of 86 kronor. In addition, a collective agreement ensures various insurance policies and pension payments.

Sofia Appelgren’s salad bar can be found in a market hall inside an old fire station. The proprietor explains that she has not opted to sign a collective agreement mainly because her employ does not want one.

She says that it is important to discuss collective agreements in large companies where employees do not have much of a say. But Appelgren argues that regulations surrounding the minimum wage, working hours and overtime contained in the agreement are not applicable in her case.

By stopping all deliveries the salad bar blockade may threaten her business. And she does not rule out an eventual capitulation.

“It is possible. But I think it is important for the general public to know how badly somebody can be treated by such a strong organisation,” said Appelgren.

Mats Hulth, who heads the Hotel and Restaurant Union, points out that all 4,400 of his organisation’s members have collective bargaining agreements and regulated conditions for their employees. He has no problem with the union’s strike action.

“Our members pay wages in accordance with a collective agreement and of course they think it is good if everybody does so,” said Hulth.