Construction sector lock-out may affect 20,000 workers

The construction strike may take a dramatic turn following the lockout announced by the Swedish Construction Federation Tuesday, as it could affect up to 20,000 workers, according to the federation.

The Swedish Construction Federation (BI) - the employers' organization that represents construction-industry interests in Sweden - said it announced the lock-out in order to protect its member companies.

BI's head of negotiations, Mats Åkerlind, said it did not make sense for employers to be responsible for paying salaries for "workers who are labour-union members and whose colleagues have been taken out on strike in a way that hinders workers from carrying out their jobs".

Johan Lindholm, chair of the labor union Byggnads, said the lock-out did not come as a surprise. "Now they're getting the big strike they've talked about and wanted all along," he said.

Byggnads now has to consider what the conflict entails, but Lindholm did not want to comment on what the union's potential counter-actions, beyond the strike, might be. He said his aim is to get back to the negotiating table.

When Byggnads took 1,650 construction workers out on strike on Tuesday, the employers said that, in reality, nearly 10,000 employees are being hindered from performing their work across 500 construction sites.

Now, Åkerlind, says that up to 20,000 could be affected, but that is if all key member companies, including companies like crane operators and suppliers of concrete pumps, are drawn into the conflict. The question, then, is if BI will announce a lock-out for all construction workers within those companies.

"We haven't taken a position on that question, so I can't answer that," said Åkerlind. "We've warned about the lock-out, so we'll see where that leads us."