Swedish opposition to scrap migrant-worker law

Ann Törnkvist
Ann Törnkvist - [email protected]
Swedish opposition to scrap migrant-worker law
Building cranes on the Malmö skyline. File photo. Sigfrid Lundberg/Flickr

The left-wing opposition stands ready to tear up the controversial Laval Law, which differentiates between domestic and foreign workers, if the Social Democrat party wrests power from the government in next year's elections.


"Swedish collective bargaining agreements should apply in Sweden," said party leader Stefan Lövfen on Wednesday at a press conference. "It does not matter from which country the employee comes from nor where the employer is registered." 
The Council of Europe's European Committee on Social Rights (ECSR) slammed Sweden as late as last week for what is known as the Laval Law, stating that it failed to guarantee equal rights for foreign guest workers. The law gets its name from a 2004 union blockade in Stockholm archipelago suburb Vaxholm, where a construction team from Latvian company Laval was building a school.
The Social Democrat party and its traditional ally LO, the Swedish Trade Union Confederation, said it was high time to make sure the client has the responsibility for salaries and taxes - and that such a responsibility would extend down the line of subcontractors, no matter how long the list.
The conservative Labour Market Minister Elisabeth Svantesson responded to Wednesday's statement from the opposition by dubbing it "protectionist". 
"Both social democracy and LO are giving voice to protectionism, and want to build a wall to keep out employees from other countries," she told the TT news agency. 
Following the Vaxholm conflict, the Swedish government legislated to make it harder for unions to enforce collective action in the defence of foreign workers' rights. The unions were also told to pay 2.7 million kronor ($392,000) for the Latvian company's subsequent court cases and "general damages". 
The unions have all along maintained that the reforms restrict the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
"The government believes in The Swedish Model with good conditions for all, but we should not close the doors to people from other countries," the labour market minister added.
She defended the Laval Law, known as Lex Laval in Sweden, despite last week's critique from the Council of Europe.
Svantesson said the law acted as a safeguard to make sure there is worker protection at the same time as allowing the free movement of services and labour. 
"That is why Lex Laval exists," she said on Wednesday. 


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