public services

Politicians call for more whistleblower protection

3:47 min

Writing in Tuesday's Dagens Nyheter Birgitta Rydberg and Anna Starbrink say that it is "embarrassing" that a liberal government has not changed the rules on privatised services - so that people working in, for example, private health care, can speak out, and be protected by the law.

Whistleblowing, is actually enshrined in the Swedish constitution. When things go wrong in the public sector, staff can speak out, to the public and to the media, and they are protected from being punished by their employers.

Rasmus Jonlund is a political aide to Birgitta Rydberg and Anna Starbrink, who wrote the debate article, and he is also in the liberal Folkpartiet.

"There ought to be the same protection, as the companies have the same obligations to the public."

It's no accident that the two authors of the debate article are politicians on the county council. It is at the county level that services like health are provided - Birgitta Rydberg herself is responsible for health care in Stockholm's county.

The protection that employees of public companies have, if they decide to blow the whistle, is quite extensive, and means that they can give information to public and the media about problems at work - and that they have the right to remain anonymous while doing so.

Trying to find out the identity of a whistle blower is a crime against freedom of speech, and likewise it is not permitted for them to be fired for speaking out.

This isn't just an abstract issue - the ability of, for example, medical or care staff, to speak out and sound the alarm if there's abuses or problems that could threaten patients' health, is seen as a crucial part of upholding public safety.

Such information often gets out via the media. Percy Bratt is a lawyer, specialising in media law, he says that it is "extremely important" that staff can speak to the media.

But for those who are outside the system of protection for whistleblowers things can be a lot more difficult. In Gothenburg a big corruption scandal blew up in the summer, over an energy contractor that was working for the council. This case was specifically cited by the authors of Tuesday's debate article.

Nils Hanson is at the Swedish TV programme Uppdrag Granskning, which broke the story. He says that whistleblowers outside the public sector have a much harder time since, although Swedish law give basic protection for whistle blowers, in a private company their identity can be investigated by the bosses and they can be disciplined or even fired.

The proposed law change would mean some restriction on private companies, but Rasmus Jonlund of the liberal Folkpartiet explains that, while his party is strongly in favour of the use of private companies to provide public services, this reform is necessary.

"If we have this type of safety net, we have less need for other types of regulation."