Bus strike underway in Stockholm

Bus strike underway in Stockholm
More than 6,000 Stockholm-area bus drivers went on strike at midnight, causing commuting headaches for thousands of area residents.

In Gustavsberg, west of Stockholm, the bus stations stood empty Tuesday morning, while there seemed to be more cars than usual out on the roads.

Marie Jacobsson, a 34-year-old resident from Saltsjö-Boo, has been hit hard by the strike.

She works at a staffing company and has spent the morning driving around Värmdö picking up employees who can’t make it into the office.

“But I understand that the drivers are on strike, absolutely,” she said.

Shortly after midnight on Tuesday morning, the usually bustling Slussen bus terminal was eerily quiet.

Jan Larsson, once an advisor to former Prime Minister Göran Persson, showed up to the bus terminal a few minutes before midnight only to read on the information sign that no further buses would be coming.

“There’s not much else to do other than catch a taxi,” he said.

He usually takes the bus to the office, but during the strike he’ll instead use his motorcycle.

Driver David Adrar dropped off his last passenger at Slussen just before the strike began.

“It’s a drag for the passengers, they need our help,” he said.

As it has come right in the middle of the busy tourist season, the strike won’t only affect Stockholm residents. Tourists visiting the Swedish capital will also face transportation challenges as they make their way around the city.

“Many tourist destinations are only reachable by bus if you want to use public transportation,” said Anna-Stina Nordmark Nilsson, head of the Federation of Private Enterprises (Företagarna).

As a result, managers of popular tourist sites and nearby shops may end up being the strike’s big losers.

The bus drivers’ employer, Bussarbetsgivarna, had requested exemptions for several routes, but the only exemption granted was for buses which replace a stretch of the commuter rail line under repair south of the city between Nynäshamn and Västerhaninge.

Närtrafiken, a service consisting of small buses specially equipped for the elderly and handicapped, will also operate as usual.

Kommunal, the bus drivers’ union, had earlier turned down an offer from a mediator of a 2,040 kronor ($340) a month pay raise over three years, while Bussarbetsgivarna has accepted it.

Drivers are asking for shorter working days, longer rest periods, and a wage increase of 1,600 kronor a month to be implemented over the next two years, said Kommunal spokesperson Serkan Köse.

There are currently no new negotiations scheduled between the two parties.

“It looks gloomy. We can’t do much now,” said Peter Jeppsson, head of Bussarbetsgivarna.

If the parties can’t agree on a new contract, new strikes are on the way.

Next Tuesday, bus drivers in Västerbotten County will go on strike, and a week later on July 15th drivers in Skåne County will also walk off the job if no agreement has been reached.