Swedish Minister Urges Unions To Back Reforms

Sweden’s biggest trade unions should back, and not protest against, a reform package proposed by the new centre-right government that includes cuts in benefits.

The words of Sweden’s Finance Minister Anders Borg in an interview published in the Financial Times on Thursday.

”Union members should be interested in our programme of tax cuts, tightened benefits and increased labour demand ... Wage earners in an average household will receive between 500 kronor (55 euros, 71 dollars) and 1,000 kronor more a month,” Anders Borg told the newspaper.

”These are policies that are beneficial to the ordinary working man,” he added, warning that the unions risked alienating their members if they persisted in opposing the plans.

The package also includes lowering unemployment and sickness benefits – though official figures put the jobless rate at 5.6 percent in August, experts reckon that a fifth of Swedes of working age live on state subsidies, either claiming unemployment, sick leave or early retirement payments or are on government retraining schemes.

Landsorganisationen, which represents 15 Swedish trade unions with a combined 1.83 million members, is planning demonstrations in the country’s biggest cities on December 14 to protest against the plans.