Builders’ strike averted after last-minute deal

A looming construction workers' strike that threatened to shut down work on dozens of major infrastructure projects across Sweden was narrowly averted on Monday night after unions agreed to a last-minute deal.

Builders' strike averted after last-minute deal

Around 3,000 workers from the Byggnads construction workers’ union were set to go on strike on Tuesday, a move that would have put a stop to work on roughly 160 building sites, including the new Karolinska hospital facilities near Stockholm and improvements to the E4 motorway near Sundsvall in eastern Sweden.

A major sticking point in the talks, which kept negotiators at the table over the long Easter holiday weekend, was the extent to which primary contractors could be held accountable for ensuring that all subcontractors adhere to collective wage agreements.

While the union had pushed for the deal to ensure that all construction workers are adequately paid, employers’ groups complained the demand would put make it impossible to hire foreign workers at Swedish constructions sites.

A negotiator presented a final offer on Monday afternoon and it took several hours before both sides agreed to the deal later in the evening.

According to the terms of the deal, a working group will be set up to come up with solutions for how contractor responsibility can be written into collective wage agreements.

“Now we will have primary contractor responsibility in Sweden just as our Nordic neighbours have. We think this is positive,” Byggnads chair Johan Lindholm told the TT news agency,

Mats Åkerlind, vice chair and chief negotiator for the Swedish Construction Federation (Sveriges Byggindustrier), promised to “work toward solutions that are acceptable for both parties”.

The deal also stipulated that construction worker salaries be tied to levels set by Sweden’s export industries.

In addition, both parties also agreed to increase efforts to improve workplace safety through more research, better orientation training for new workers, and more health checks, among other measures.

TT/The Local/dl

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Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

A reader got in touch to ask how long he had to work in Sweden before he was eligible for a pension. Here are Sweden's pension rules, and how you can get your pension when the time comes.

Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

The Swedish pension is part of the country’s social insurance system, and it can seem like a confusing beast at times. The good news is that if you’re living and working here, you’ll almost certainly be earning towards a pension, and you’ll be able to get that money even if you move elsewhere before retirement.

You will start earning your Swedish general pension, or allmän pension, once you’ve earned over 20,431 kronor in a single year, and – for almost all kinds of pension in Sweden – there is no time limit on how long you must have lived in Sweden before you are eligible.

The exception is the minimum guarantee pension, or garantipension, which you can receive whether you’ve worked or not. To be eligible at all for this, you need to have lived in Sweden for a period of at least three years before you are 65 years old. 

“There’s a limit, but it’s a money limit,” Johan Andersson, press secretary at the Swedish Pension Agency told The Local about the general pension. “When you reach the point that you start paying tax, you start paying into your pension.”

“But you have to apply for your pension, make sure you get in touch with us when you want to start receiving it,” he said.

Here’s our in-depth guide on how you can maximise your Swedish pension, even if you’re only planning on staying in Sweden short-term.

Those who spend only a few years working in Sweden will earn a much smaller pension than people who work here for their whole lives, but they are still entitled to something – people who have worked in Sweden will keep their income pension, premium pension, supplementary pension and occupational pension that they have earned in Sweden, even if they move to another country. The pension is paid no matter where in the world you live, but must be applied for – it is not automatically paid out at retirement age.

If you retire in the EU/EEA, or another country with which Sweden has a pension agreement, you just need to apply to the pension authority in your country of residence in order to start drawing your Swedish pension. If you live in a different country, you should contact the Swedish Pensions Agency for advice on accessing your pension, which is done by filling out a form (look for the form called Ansök om allmän pension – om du är bosatt utanför Sverige).

The agency recommends beginning the application process at least three months before you plan to take the pension, and ideally six months beforehand if you live abroad. It’s possible to have the pension paid into either a Swedish bank account or an account outside Sweden.

A guarantee pension – for those who live on a low income or no income while in Sweden – can be paid to those living in Sweden, an EU/EEA country, Switzerland or, in some cases, Canada. This is the only Swedish pension which is affected by how long you’ve lived in Sweden – you can only receive it if you’ve lived in the country for at least three years before the age of 65.

“The guarantee pension is residence based,” Andersson said. “But it’s lower if you haven’t lived in Sweden for at least 40 years. You are eligible for it after living in Sweden for only three years, but it won’t be that much.”