Littorin stands up to unions in fee quarrel

Swedish labour market minister Sven Otto Littorin has said he will not accept unions continuing to force non-members to pay their fees.

The European Court of Human Rights recently ruled that construction workers’ union Byggnads was not allowed to continue charging so-called inspection fees to people who were not members.

The union interpreted the judgment as meaning that they simply had to change accounting procedures, but Littorin said he did not share that interpretation.

“The ruling does not distinguish between unionised and non-unionised workers – it rules that the whole system is illegal. The judgment is therefore much worse for Byggnads than has so far been reported,” Littorin told news agency TT.

Littorin said that the system must be redesigned so that workers are given the option of not paying the fee, worth 1.5 percent of a builder’s monthly salary.

The government is now hoping that the unions and employers will solve the issue in the current negotiations over new collective agreements.

“I would like to see how they interpret the ruling. I’m not generally the one who should do that, but I am in a situation in which I must do so in order that Sweden does not become liable to pay damages once more,” Littorin said.

“The European Convention takes precedence over collective agreements, and I must take account of that. I don’t like to mess around with collective agreements, but if the European Convention conflicts with the agreements, then I will have to.”