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Unions prepare for fight in wage negotiations

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16:37 CET+01:00
Unions representing Swedish manufacturing and engineering workers have enough money in the bank to finance several months of strikes if they don't get their way in the current pay round. Employers could be given notice of overtime bans as early as next week, in a move that would cost Swedish business millions.

Collective agreements that govern the pay and conditions of hundreds of thousands of Swedish workers are due to expire on April 1st. Industrial action could follow if unions fail to accept employers' offers at the end of this week.

Local union branches in the engineering industry have already expressed a willingness to strike if employers do not loosen the pursestrings.

Swedish law requires that notice of a strike must be given seven days before it starts, meaning in this case by 21st March. Union members must also be allowed a vote on planned action.

Unions have plenty of money in the bank to finance a potential strike. White-collar union SIF has around 3 billion kronor in its strike account. That alone is enough for all its 350,000 members to strike for three weeks. The union also owns bonds worth a billion kronor.

However, as the current negotiations only concern 100,000 of SIF's members, the strike fund would be enough to finance six months of complete stoppage.

Blue-collar union IF Metall, part of the LO confederation, has smaller reserves split between more members. But even Metall's 8 billion kronor could finance a damaging strike by the 200,000 members affected by current negotiations.

Employers' organization Teknikföretagen has 1.8 billion kronor in its fund to help members through any industrial action.

It is thought unlikely that full-blown strikes will be called across large swathes of Swedish industry at the same time. Rather, it is expected that industrial action will take the form of overtime bans and other more moderate action.

Unions say they want to avoid any action that would put Swedish industry at risk and threaten jobs. Nonetheless, current high growth means that an overtime ban would have serious consequences for many Swedish companies.

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