Swedish actors go silent in kids’ TV strike

Swedish actors who dub children's programmes from industry giants such as Disney are in their second week of strike action over wages that have remained stagnant for a decade.

Swedish actors go silent in kids' TV strike

“Television is part of children’s language development, and they have a right to good quality,” Swedish Actors Union (Teaterförbundet) Secretary General Jaan Kolk told The Local.

He said the profession had a lower status in Sweden because film and television is only dubbed for children, while many European countries dub near all productions. They also, Kolk noted, often have one domestic actor who always interprets the same Hollywood star.

“It’s easier to replace an actor dubbing for children, who may not be as observant as adults, than to pluck out the man who gets to dub Tom Cruise in every movie,” Kolk said.

Across Europe, however, the reliance on short-term contracts and freelancers made the actors more vulnerable, he added.

In Sweden, the union has calculated that salaries and freelance fees for dubbing actors have stayed at the same level since 2003, while wages across the Swedish labour market have gone up by about 30 percent over the past ten years.

A four-percent hike with the promise of regular re-negotiations was presented to two dubbing companies in April. The studios responded by asking for more time to consider the deal on the table, but when no response materialized, the actors went out on strike on April 26th, the actors went on strike.

About 150 of the union’s 2,400 actor members work for two dubbing studios, SDI Media and Dubberman, who translate and rerecord dialogue for children’s programmes from companies such as Disney, Warner, and Fox.

Two weeks into the blockade – with freelancers turning down jobs and salaried employees on strike – the union has accused the studios of bringing in strike breakers. The TT news agency tried and failed on Friday to reach the two studios affected by the blockade.

“We’re getting reports that they are willing to pay double fees to circumnavigate the blockade,” said Kolk.

“Our goal with the strike is not only to increase the wages, but try to introduce normal employer-employee relations in this segment of the labour market,” Kolk said.

Ann Törnkvist

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Train staff threaten wildcat strike in Skåne on Monday

Trains could be disrupted across Skåne in southern Sweden on Monday after the SEKO transport union threatened a wildcat strike over an attempt to remove a troublesome union official.

Train staff threaten wildcat strike in Skåne on Monday
Arriva, which operates the Pågatåg train network, faces a strike. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
The union has set up a strike committee after Arriva, the Deutsche Bahn subsidiary which runs the Pågatågen regional trains, offered Ola Brunnström, the union's health and safety official, two years of salary if he took voluntary redundancy.  
“For us, what was the straw on the camel's back was the attack on the right to self-organisation, that what they are doing is actually breaking the law,” a member of the new committee told the Sydsvenskan newspaper. 
“Ola Brunnström is a chief health and safety official and he should be protected under the Trade Union Representatives Act.” 
Brunnström has denied the offer, but Arriva wants to push ahead nonetheless and is set to meet him, together with Seko representatives on Monday. 
According to Seko, the meeting between Brunnström and Arriva will centre on an  email he wrote to other Seko-affiliated staff on October 9th, when he wrote: “We are not afraid of the bosses, they should be afraid of us.” 
Jonas Pettersson, Seko's head of planning and communication, told Sydsvenskan that Arriva had been trying to silence a high profile union official with a long hisotry of pushing for better safety for the company's employees. 
Arriva would only tell Sydsvenskan that they had had a discussion with one of their employees. 
Brunnström has in recent months been a vocal participant in a struggle with the company over equipment to protect staff from being infected with coronavirus, over loo breaks, and also over Arriva's moves to unilaterally reduce employees hours and salary. 
Pettersson said Seko would do everything in its power to prevent Brunnström losing his job, but said the union could not support a wildcat strike and encouraged its members not to take part in it.