Shop workers strike called for April 5th

The Commercial Employees Union (Handels) has called for a total strike at 94 workplaces around the country. The strike involves over 6,000 employees and will take effect on April 5th, just in time for the Easter weekend.

Among the companies to be affected by the industrial action are Ikea, Hennes & Mauritz, Lindex, Ica Maxi, Åhléns, Willys, Wedins skor, Plantagen and Stadium.

The union has also decided to target several major warehouses, including Ikea in Älmhult, Clas Ohlson in Insjön, Ica Sverige in Borlänge and Järfälla, and Dagab in Haninge.

According to Urban Bäckström, CEO of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv), employer organizations have expressed concerns that wage floors may be rising too quickly. He gives this as the reason for the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise’s intervention on Sunday to prevent a deal between the Commercial Employees Union and the Swedish Trade Federation.

“There is a risk that interest rates will be raised and jobs will disappear,” said Bäckström.

The union’s deal with the Swedish Trade Federation (Svensk Handel) to give pay rises of between 11 and 13 percent was blocked on Sunday by the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, making industrial action almost inevitable.

The strike is likely have effects beyond the retail industry: the board of the Commercial Employees Union has been granted permission by union confederation LO to consider secondary action, meaning workers in other sectors could go on strike in support of the shopworkers.

Sture Nordh, chairman of the Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees, said he was not surprised by the planned strike call, saying that the negotiations were “much more centralized than most of us thought.”

“The interesting thing, of course, is that the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise is always arguing that negotiations should take place on a sector by sector basis, that they should be local and that they should adapt to the situation in different businesses. But behind the scenes there’s strict coordination,” he said.

Labour market minister Sven Otto Littorin said he would not comment on ongoing negotiations.