Builders walk out after talks fail

Builders at one of Sweden's largest construction firms walked out on Wednesday morning in the first of several planned strikes following the breakdown of negotiations between employers' representatives and building union Byggnads.

The 800 striking builders work for Peab. A further 1,500 builders working for JM, NCC and Skanska have been notified of strike action beginning on April 27th, said Byggnads’ chairman Hans Tilly. The union will need permission from trade union confederation LO if it wishes to put more workers on strike notice.

Today’s strike follows Byggnads’ refusal to accept a deal put forward by mediators on Tuesday. Employers’ organization the Swedish Construction Federation had accepted the deal.

Byggnads has handed an eight-page inventory of its objections to the deal. The union says it is most concerned about the proposed rights for union negotiation in smaller workplaces and about the proposed working time reductions. In addition, it argues that a maximum wage increase of 0.5 percent is too low.

Mediators say they are the the disposal of unions and employers, but do not plan to take any independent initiatives at present.

Bo Antoni, chief executive of the Swedish Construction Federation, said that Byggnad’s response to the offer showed that it had lost control over the situation. He said he found the strike inexplicable, adding that the mediators had compromised on all of the building union’s objections.

Antoni said the strike was a “bitter reaction result of the case in the European Court earlier this year.” In that case, the court banned Byggnads from forcing non-members to pay fees to the union.

Meanwhile, there was no work being done at many building sites operated by Peab. At the site of a new apartment complex in Hammarby Sjöstad, southern Stockholm, the local chairman of Byggnads said that the public supported the union’s action. Johan Lindholm told news agency TT that passers-by had shouted out, “stand your ground”, and “we’re supporting you.”

Lindholm said that union members were “one hundred percent” ready for a fight, adding that the action could spread. He said that he was angry that employers had brought up the question of fees to non members in the latest negotiations. The question did not belong in the latest discussions, he said.