Strike moors Stockholm archipelago commuters

Three days into a public transport strike in the Stockholm archipelago, one union activist has been reported to the police while 1,500 commuters have been left stranded in the conflict's wake.

Strike moors Stockholm archipelago commuters
Seko strikes on Nybrokajen quay in central Stockholm on Tuesday. Phioto: Janerik Henriksson/TT

"We're slaves to their timetables and departures in the winter," said jazz pianist Daniel Karlsson, 40, who has lived with his partner in the archipelago for 15 years.

"We have our own boat, but as soon as there is a sliver of ice all private boats have to be taken up on land," he told The Local. "So we need the public transport boats from Christmas to Easter."


But the ability of Karlsson and other island dwellers to grab one of the ferry boats that extend Stockholm's public transit system out into the waters of the archipelago has been sunk by a strike that broke out on Monday.

Disagreements over pay scales have led to a complete breakdown in communication between the trade union Seko and the employers' organization Almega. They haven't spoken since Sunday, when Almega rejected the union's latest bid. 

Jazz pianist Karlsson said he could do without the boats for most of the year as he has his own – "as long as I can get to Arlanda airport somehow". While he also at times drives a private 12-passenger taxi boat, he said the rest of the archipelago was utterly dependent on public transport. 

"Runmarö isn't far from the mainland, but for people on islands further out the commute is much longer," Karlsson said. 

While the islanders make do, accusations and counter-accusations between the employees and employers bob about.

SEE PICTURES: Union activists at Stockholm harbour 

On Monday night, a union ombudsman and another representative tried to board a boat that had been rented out for a private party. Almega has reported the incident to the police, accusing the duo of breaking and entering and for issuing threats. Almega claimed that the two union activists ignored the captain's order's not to walk up the gang plank of the boat, which was heading to Vaxholm with a private dinner party. The union members then proceeded to verbally assault the crew, Almega further stated. 

Seko has not denied that union members climbed aboard, but said it would distances itself from any threats if they were made. The union underlined that the boat was part of the fleet under blockade – in essence making the crew scabs. 

"I was informed that the (union members) became aware that there was an Almega representative on board, so they opened the door and asked if the representative supported a disruption of the strike by letting the boat cast off," Seko negotiator Valle Karlsson said.

The strike affects some 1,500 commuters, mainly in the southern and middle archipelago outside the Swedish capital. The central Stockholm ferries between Slussen and Djurgården island – home to the Abba museum, outdoor museum Skansen, and a smörgåsbord of other art galleries have also been affected, as have the Älvsnabben river ferries in Gothenburg on the west coast.

Stefan Guldstrand, the owner of of Utö Tavern (Utö värdshus), has some 20 staff, of which many live on the mainland.

"We have no guests, we aren't getting any food deliveries, and our staff can't get here," Guldstrand told the TT news agency. He said the tavern had to hire private boat taxis to ferry about ten guests to the restaurant on Tuesday.

"It's not sustainable in the long-term." 

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