Employer and union leaders call for moderate pay rises, as strikes loom

Labour leaders and employers have joined forces to urge unions to limit their pay negotiations, down to the level that was recently gained by the industrial unions.

Unions and employers are deeply divided over this year’s pay negotiations, part of the collective bargaining agreements. The main blue-collar labour federation (LO), together with the main employer federation (Svensk Näringsliv), is calling for everyone to follow the agreement made by the industrial unions, which since 1998 was regarded as the benchmark and has been seen as a source of stability.

But this year the collective bargaining talks are deeply divided, with some unions aiming for a much higher pay rise than that achieved by the industrial workers.

The industrial unions mostly represent workers employed in export businesses, affected by the sluggish world economy and fears of a slow-down in China’s demand for goods, while unions representing workers employed by the public sector, or the consumer sector, feel that they should benefit from the current Swedish economic upswing.

On Sunday the Handels union, representing 150,000 shop and warehouse workers, gained a flat SEK 590 monthly pay rise. For context, the union had previously set its minimum wage for inexperienced employees at SEK 19,455 per month.

The painters and builders unions are also pursuing pay rises higher than the industrial benchmark, and have given notice that they are going to call strikes unless an agreement is reached.

But in the press release from LO and Svensk Näringsliv, reported by news agency TT, the union federation made it clear that it supports the Kommunal public sector union’s campaign to raise nurses’ wages, and sees a possibility for this rise to exceed the benchmark raise made by the industrial sector.