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Equality Gives Way to Market Forces

| Text: Gunhild Wallin

Two male social advisors, newly appointed to the County Administrative Board in Malmö, were given salaries in excess of those earned by their incumbent female colleagues. In a judgement issued by the Swedish Labour Court on 23 May, this difference was attributable solely to market forces and not in any way gender discriminating.

“This is a defeat for not only our members but also the association as a whole, but most of all it is a defeat for equality. I wonder whether anybody can now be accused of wage discrimination,” says Christin Johansson, President of Akademikerförbundet SSR, the union responsible for pursuing the case.

Ten female social advisors work at the County Administrative Board in Malmö. A few years ago, two men were recruited to positions equivalent to those held by the existing women employees. Both men received significantly higher salaries than the women, even though all social advisors carried out the same work. The women saw this as unlawful gender discrimination and, supported by their union, took the case to the Swedish Labour Court.

In its defence, the County Administrative Board stated that they wanted to take on advisors that had experience of municipal service and were therefore forced to adapt the salaries awarded to the two men to be in line with the higher wage level that exists in the municipality.

The Labour Court pronounced in favour of the County Administrative Board. Market forces created the salary differences between the newly appointed men and incumbent women employees.

“The extensive professional experience of our members counted for very little when weighed against the two men’s experience of municipal social services. This case has set a precedent and made it far too easy for employers now to blame market forces for setting men’s salaries higher than those of women,” says Christin Johansson.

 

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