Builders’ strike called off

A builders' strike has been called off after unions reached agreement with employers on a new national pay and conditions package.

“We’ve had to compromise a lot, but that’s how it is in circumstances like these, when you’ve got industrial action taking place,” said Bo Antoni, CEO of the Swedish Construction Federation.

Byggnads last week rejected a proposed agreement put forward by mediators, saying that the proposed wage increases in the deal were less than agreed industry norms. It called a strike for 800 workers for Peab, a large Swedish constructor. A further 1,500 workers at JM, NCC and Skanska had been due to walk out on 27th April.

According to the Swedish Construction Federation the new agreement is in line with that put forward last week, giving a 10.2 percent average wage increase over three years.

Nonetheless, employers caved in on a number of points, including a reduction in working time of one day a year in 2008 and one day in 2009.

Employers scored an important victory by keeping so-called inspection fees out of the agreement.

Inspection fees of 1.5 percent of wages are charged by Byggnads both to members and non-members, the purpose of which is to ensure that employers are paying the right wages. The fees to non-members were ruled illegal by the European Court of Human Rights earlier this year.

“The judgment said that we should be more transparent when we accounted for how the money was used,” said Byggnads chairman Hans Tilly.

“We found a model that suited us, but we felt that the employers kept putting a spanner in the works. We have therefore simply taken the inspection fees out of the agreement,” he said.

“But this doesn’t mean that we will stop checking that the right wage is being paid to members. That will remain an important question for us.”

Byggnads has said it will now raise membership fees by 155 kronor a month in order to cover the loss of the inspection fees. Employers also agreed that they would hand Byggnads details of the wages of all workers, whether members of the union or not.

Despite agreeing to the measure, the Swedish Construction Federation said it was “very dubious from a data protection standpoint.”

Peab, the only company to be hit by the strike, said it was not particularly happy with the agreement.

“We don’t need more bureaucracy in the workplace, which is what this is going to lead to,” said spokesman Gösta Sjöström.