Swedish unions protect lowest paid

A major round of collective bargaining is underway in Sweden, covering some 2.4 million blue collar, white collar and professional workers. Industrial unions have already signed a three-year collective agreement, until 2020, that will benefit lower-paid workers most.

The unions, affiliated to the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO), secured a general wage deal worth 6.5%, with an extra increase for low-wage earners, following a coordinated campaign.

Negotiators were forced several times to give notice of industrial action. “Growing inequalities are a threat to economic stability and, in the long run, to European democratic systems,” commented LO President Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson. “Europe therefore needs a pay rise, not only for individual workers but for society at large.”

“We went into these agreement negotiations with three clear demands: more money in our wallets, greater allocation to part-time pensions and a clear low-wage effort, all of which we succeeded in getting through,” said IF Metall Chairman Anders Ferbe.

Over the next three years, wages will rise by an annual 2% (as of 1 April), with higher awards for the lowest paid: full-timers on less than €2,450 per month. The deal make it easier for workers to reduce their hours at the end of their careers.

The unions fought off employers’ demands for tougher working conditions including Saturday work and holiday and leave restrictions. Negotiations are continuing in other sectors.

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Photo credit: Anders Larsson  LO-Sweden