Threat of strikes hangs over companies

Next week there is the threat of three strikes within Almega’s contract areas. The heart of the Swedish vehicle industry could be paralysed and it could cause commuters major problems. A twenty-year-old Swedish negotiation model is on the line in the dispute.

In the past few days the agreement negotiations have become heated, and it is the Swedish Trade Union Confederation’s (LO) proposal to increase the wages of low-wage workers by 6.5% over three years that is causing the problem. The painters at Volvo Cars, the assembly in Torslanda, vehicle support at Volvo Powertrain but also Ringhals’s nuclear power station are at risk of being called out on strike. There could also be a strike within the rail agreement, which could hit commuters.

Calls for government to take action

Shippers and shipping lines faced disruption at the Port of Gothenburg on Tuesday as dockworkers went on strike. The dockworkers’ union has been locked in a year-long dispute with APM Terminals, which operates the container hub.

APM Terminals has slammed Swedish legislation, demanding a review, while the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise has called on the government to take the initiative and amend strike laws.

State secretary Irene Wennemo describes the situation as serious but rules out the possibility of the government wading into the conflict, or of reviewing legislation.

SAS strike over

After five days and 1,000 cancelled flights, the strike by SAS pilots is finally over. Under the terms of the new agreement, the pilots will receive a pay increase of 2.2%.

For SAS, which is under severe financial pressure, the strike has been inopportune. Experts calculate the cost of the conflict to the airline to between 10 and 25 million kronor per day.

Meanwhile, Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson (S) said on Tuesday that the government saw no reason to review Swedish strike legislation. Saying she understood the problems experienced by travellers, the minister nevertheless pointed out that, “both strikes and lockouts are weapons that can be used by the parties to put pressure behind their demands”.

SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson expressed relief that the strike was over and said he regretted that so many of the airline’s customers (more than 100,000) had been affected.

Strike could break SAS

The strike among SAS pilots has forced the airline to cancel 240 flights today, which will affect more than 25,000.

The strike could break SAS, suggests SvD. The airline is already struggling on a cut-throat market, and once again there is talk of a takeover by Lufthansa. Above all, however, passengers are losing faith in SAS, and that could cost the airline dear.

The paper also reports that there is some disagreement between the employer and the union over just how much a SAS pilot earns; the employer says the average monthly salary is SKr 78,000 while the union says it is SKr 60,000. The union claims the conflict is about more than money, and that SAS pilots have seen their salaries lag since 2009.

Meanwhile, the strike raises the question as to whether legislation should be introduced to limit the right of pilots to strike, says the Swedish Federation of Business Owners (Företagarna).

“A study should be made into whether industrial action is proportionate to the impact it will have on business and society,” CEO Günther Mårder tells DI.

Carola Lemne, CEO of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) agrees and describes the strike as irresponsible and preposterous, both in terms of the pilots’ demands and the impact it could have on the airline.

Pilot strike continues

Scandinavian airline SAS has confirmed that talks with the Swedish Airline Pilots’ Association (Pilotförbundet) have ended in deadlock and that the strike will continue today, Monday. Two hundred and thirty flights will be cancelled today, leaving 27,000 passengers stranded.

SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson is concerned over the chaos the pilots are causing and the consequences of the strike, saying the airline cannot afford wage demands of SKr 100 million per year. “We are not competitive and you have no future if you are uncompetitive in a low-margin industry,” he says.

Conflict could drag on

The conflict within the construction industry risks being a long one. Yesterday a total of 2,500 construction workers went out on strike, affecting at least four times as many workers, and employers reacted with a lock-out. At least 9,700, and up to 12,000, workers will be locked out of workplaces from 22 April, if no agreement is reached.

According to the Swedish Construction Federation (Sveriges Byggindustrier), construction companies are losing between SKr 100 and 200 million every day. The union, Byggnads wants a pay rise of 3.2% and the industry benchmark for pay rises to be set at 2.2%

State appointed negotiator Jan Sjölin, who has been helping the parties try to resolve the conflict, says the situation is in deadlock. “There will be no negotiations for the next few days,” he says.”

35,000 affected by Norwegian strike

Late Tuesday evening, the airline Norwegian said it was cancelling all domestic flights in Sweden, Norway and Denmark because of the pilot strike. More than 35,000 passengers will be affected.

The airline has also cancelled all flights between the Scandinavian capitals. Some flights to European destinations may also be affected. Long-haul flights to the US and Thailand will operate as normal.

Norwegian has said it will lay off 800 flight attendants as of today, Wednesday.