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1,400 leave union after reports of mismanagement

Published fredag 15 januari kl 15.53
Updated fredag 15 januari kl 17.51
"I didn't believe it at first. Then I got extremely disappointed"
(4:52 min)
A strike organized by Kommunal in 2003.

In less than two days more than 1,400 members decided to leave Kommunal (or the Swedish Municipal Workers' Union) in the wake of reports about cronyism, excessive spending, and inappropriate business ventures, which led to the treasurer announcing his resignation Thursday.

Kommunal's press department told Swedish Radio News that 700 members had left the union on Thursday and another 700 on Friday.

Members of Kommunal's local chapters expressed disappointment about the media revelations. Rikard Mattson, chairman of the local chapter in Härjedalen, Jämtland in northwest Sweden, told Swedish Radio he did not understand the union management's behavior.

"You're disappointed," he said. "How can it be like this in an organization that represents low-paid workers?"

Newspaper Aftonbladet first reported about excessive bills for alcohol, the mismanagement of an unprofitable restaurant and conference center, sex-themed parties thrown at Kommunal-owned facilities, and board member's free spa weekends, all financed ostensibly with union membership fees.

After being a member of the union for 14 years Tobbe Jönsson from Kristianstad said he decided to quit Thursday.

"I think it's scandalous when you've voted in people to sit and manage our membership that they then play with our money," he said.

Jönsson said he didn't understand why the treasurer Anders Bergström would leave because of the scandal but still receive severance benefits of around SEK 1.8 million, a figure that was revealed Thursday evening.

"It's totally sick," he said. "Instead, he should have to pay back all the members who've been affected."

While members presumably left in protest, Alejandro Caviedes, chairman of one of the local chapters in Umeå, in northern Sweden, warned that it wasn't an appropriate response.

"There's only one party who wins when members leave Kommunal, the employers, because [we workers] are weakened. We need to be many to be strong," he said.

On its website Kommunal boasts more than 500,000 members and says it is Sweden's biggest union.

Swedish Radio said that none of the members interviewed had yet demanded the resignation of the union's chairwoman Annelie Nordström.

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