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UNIONS

Unions prepare for fight in wage negotiations

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.

WORK

Swedish unions want to curb labour migration

Swedish blue-collar trade unions have said it is time for Sweden to revise its labour migration policies, and reintroduce employers' commitment to prove how foreign workers fill gaps in the Swedish market.

Swedish unions want to curb labour migration

The Swedish Trade Union Confederation, LO, wants to reduce migration from outside the Nordic region to Sweden in fields where its 14 blue-collar member unions represent workers.

In a report presented on Wednesday, LO noted that two thirds of permits for non-Nordic citizens are issued for professions where there is already high domestic competition for jobs. The professions include cleaners, construction workers, and employees in the hospitality sector.

“We are not saying that the unions should have some kind of veto,” LO spokesman Thord Ingesson told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

“But we think giving permits should be based on some kind of list from the Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen) that shows in which fields employers are having problems finding people.”

The confederation further argues that the reform had not helped plug holes in the labour market, but instead shifted the power balance between employees and employers to the latter’s favour.

The reform, they said, had also opened the doors to exploitation and that authorities needed to take greater responsibility in vetting employers who apply to bring in foreign workers to make sure they were accountable.

The confederation further said that issuing work permits that mean workers have to leave the country if the contract is terminated meant that employees became dependent on their employer. Such a dependence was a threat to their right to highlight concerns in the workplace and their right to take an employer to task if details of their job contract were not honoured.

The permits, LO suggested, should not be tied to a specific employer.

TT/The Local/at

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