Sweden braces for traffic chaos amid strike threats

As unions threaten to pull bus, train and underground staff, commuters may experience severe disruptions ahead of the Midsummer weekend.

Sweden braces for traffic chaos amid strike threats

A bus strike Wednesday, a halt to Pendeltåg commuter train and underground traffic in the three biggest cities on Thursday, plus a potential cleaners’ strike could leave many stranded in the coming week.

Anyone considering a Midsummer makeover may also have to scupper those plans as hair dressers have warned of a walkout, too.

In total, five strikes could break out due to labour disputes.

The Kommunal union has threatened to halt bus traffic in Stockholm and in Umeå in the north on Wednesday, and the strike could also spread to other cities in the following week.

On Thursday, the Seko union may pull Pendeltåg commuter train drivers in Malmö, Gothenburg and Stockholm, which would leave those traveling to and from Sweden’s three biggest cities stranded.

The red line on Stockholm’s underground network, which covers 36 stops, may also be affected.

In addition, the Seko and Fastighets unions have warned of a cleaners’ strike at a number of major industry plants around the country. Seko also plans to pull over 1,000 telecoms employees on Wednesday.

In most cases employers have responded with a lockout from work places and on Sunday mediators were working intensively to resolve the disputes.

Representatives of those involved in the bus conflict planned to meet for negotiations on Sunday.

“We will see if there is a possibility for them to make an offer,” Peter Jeppsson, CEO of the Swedish Bus and Coach Employers’ Association (Bussarbetsgivarna), told news agency TT.

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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.