Axfood slams employers’ organization for blocking wage deal

Axfood, which owns supermarket chains Willys and Hemköp, has criticized the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) for blocking an agreement between the Swedish Trade Federation (Svensk Handel) and the Commercial Employees Union (Handels).

The move will only serve to damage the credibility of the current round of wage negotiations, according to Axfood.

A planned Easter strike would hit both Willys and Hemköp hard, as both main warehouses are targeted for industrial action. The strike was called on Monday in reaction to the unexpected intervention of the employers’ organization.

“It’s an expensive agreement but we have accepted it. Strange that the Swedish Trade Federation is not allowed to make its own decision while the Commercial Employees Union is,” said Cecilia Giertta, a spokeswoman for Axfood.

The Swedish Trade Federation could choose to incur a fine by simply ignoring the wishes of its umbrella organization. Asked whether Axfood would prefer such a solution as a means of avoiding a conflict, Giertta replied:

“We don’t want a conflict.”

Gert Karnberg, CEO of hardware chain Clas Ohlson, is convinced that the strike will be averted in time.

But how can he be so certain?

“I have been involved in lots of wage negotiations,” he told news agency TT.


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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