Borg said he wanted the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) to “turn down the volume on their ideological megaphones”.
According to Borg, a member of the centre-right Moderate Party, Sweden’s unions have shouldered most of the burden associated with the current economic crisis, while employers have mostly complained that the Swedish labour market doesn’t work.
The finance minister urged the country’s business community to put a muzzle on “those ideologues”.
“If you want to have a positive tone heading into the next round of labour agreement negotiations, maybe you should try to be a bit more nuanced; it takes two to dance the tango,” said Borg.
The comments came during a seminar held arranged by the Centre for Business and Policy Studies (SNS) during Sweden’s annual Almedalen Week political meet up, held in Visby on the Baltic island of Gotland.
Borg’s accusations prompted a heated exchange with Anders Rune, the lead economist with the Association of Swedish Engineering Industries (Teknikföretagen).
“I regret the attack on employers,” said Rune, who fired back that perhaps Borg wasn’t very well informed about the functioning of the Swedish labour market.
Such signals don’t improve the prospects for the coming round of negotiation between unions and employers, he added.
“You can start by saying that the country’s business owners are nuts when they want to reform labour laws,” said Rune.
But Borg held steady.
“Of you fire missiles you have to be ready accept that they will be answered in the same tone,” said the finance minister.
Borg praised Sweden’s unions for how they’ve managed the weak economy by agreeing to shorter working hours and lower pay.
“We have a union movement which views change positively, which protects people, not jobs and we should protect that. We have one of the world’s best union movements,” said Borg.
He pointed to recent figures from the OECD which show that Sweden, along with Denmark, have the most flexible labour laws in Sweden.
The Swedish Federation of Business Owner (Företagarna), rejected the finance minister’s criticism, however, calling it baseless, arguing that it’s not true that Swedish labour law doesn’t affect unemployment.