Volvo workers in ‘wildcat’ strike

An unofficial strike broke out at a Volvo Trucks plant in Umeå on Thursday. 150 workers downed tools for one and a half hours.

The walkout came in response to wage negotiations at the plant, where unions and Volvo are finding it hard to reach agreement.

At 10 am the workers left their positions, in what management describes as a wildcat strike. Around 150 employees in the factory, which makes truck bodies, were away from their work for about one and a half hours.

“We naturally view this as very serious,” said Volvo Trucks’ spokesman, Thor Persson.

He would not comment on the wage negotiations, other than to say that both sides had agreed to put them on hold until after the summer holiday period.

Union representative Willian Frank denied that there was a wildcat strike.

“I view it instead as a very forceful declaration of dissatisfaction; we have received an offer that gives us about 80 kronor a month, and I therefore understand that our members get irritated,” he said, adding that he does not support wildcat strikes.

The union has demanded 2,050 kronor per month per employee, to be distributed according to where and how many hours individual workers work.


Sweden’s Volvo regains strength after pandemic puts brakes on earnings

Swedish truck maker Volvo Group was hit by a sharp drop in earnings due to the coronavirus pandemic, but business rebounded at the end of the year.

Sweden's Volvo regains strength after pandemic puts brakes on earnings
Volvo Group CEO Martin Lundstedt. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

In 2020, the group saw “dramatic fluctuations in demand” due to the Covid-19 pandemic, chief executive Martin Lundstedt said in a statement.

For 2021, Volvo raised its sales forecasts in its trucks division – its core business – in Europe, North America and Brazil.

However, it said it also expected “production disturbances and increased costs” due to a “strained” supply chain, noting a global shortage of semiconductors across industries.

The truck making sector is particularly sensitive to the global economic situation and is usually hard hit during crises.

In March, as the pandemic took hold around the world, Volvo suspended operations at most of its sites in 18 countries and halted production at Renault Trucks, which it owns, in Belgium and France.

Operations gradually resumed mid-year, but not enough to compensate for the drop in earnings.

With annual sales down 22 percent to 338 billion kronor (33.4 billion euros, $40 billion), the group posted a 46 percent plunge in net profit to 19.3 billion kronor (1.9 billion euros).

Operating margin fell from 11.5 to 8.1 percent.

However, the group did manage to cut costs by 20 percent.

“We have significantly improved our volume and cost flexibility, which were crucial factors behind our earnings resilience in 2020,” the group said.

Volvo's business regained strength in the second half of the year.

“Customer usage of trucks and machines increased when the Covid-19 restrictions were eased during the summer and this development continued during both the third and fourth quarters,” it said.

“Both the transport activity and the construction business are back at levels on par with the prior year in most markets.”

For the fourth quarter alone, the company reported a 38-percent rise in net profit from a year earlier.