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Swedish LO: The ETUC no longer represents us

Swedish LO: The ETUC no longer represents us

| Text: Kerstin Ahlberg

The Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO) has stopped paying its membership fee to the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and will no longer participate in the organisation’s meetings – all in protest against the ETUC’s handling of the directive on adequate minimum wages.

The rift within the ETUC became evident even before the European Commission had presented its directive proposal. In February 2020, ten trade union confederations across Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden wrote a letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. In it, they underlined that they did not share the ETUC’s favourable view, but that they hoped the Commission would not propose any binding EU regulations on wages. 

But it did, and a majority of the ETUC’s member organisations not only want the directive – they want the regulations to be even stricter than what the Commission has proposed. Meanwhile, it seems the Swedes’ (and the Danes’) continued opposition to the directive as a whole has only served to increase the conflict, despite the secretariat’s attempts at finding solutions to the conflict. LO believes the secretariat actually prioritised going with the majority all along, rather than pushing for an agreement. 

In the meantime, the proposed directive has been discussed by the European Parliament and by the member states’ governments in the Council of Ministers. As usual, the ETUC lobbied against the Parliament, and that is where things turned sour in the end.

“The majority wants each and every employee in the EU to have the right to a statutory minimum wage fixed in legislation or by collective agreement. That is difficult for us to fulfil, of course, since our collective agreements do not cover everyone. So we tried through the Parliament to get an exception for Sweden and Denmark only – but that failed because the ETUC was opposed to it,” says Hanna Björknäs, an LO lawyer.

That was the final straw for LO’s leadership, and just before Christmas, it decided to sever contact with the ETUC. 

“Paying a fee to an organisation that works against us is not possible. We cannot allow them to represent us, we must speak for ourselves,” LO’s contract secretary Torbjörn Johansson said in a comment.

The Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the Commission will now negotiate to try to agree on a final text. The Parliament’s position largely mirrors what the ETUC wants. However, the Council of Ministers’ negotiation mandate secures sufficient guarantees to safeguard the Swedish model, the Swedish government believes. The Danish government, meanwhile, was not convinced when the Council of Ministers voted on the issue.  

And of course – nobody knows how the negotiations will end. You can only assume they will be difficult. 

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Luca Visentini

General Secretary at the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) promised at the Nordic trade unions' congress in Malmö in 2018 that the ETUC would not oppose Denmark and Sweden in the issue of minimum wages. Now, Swedish LO says the ETUC has gone behind their back.

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articles about statuary minimum wages:

Photo: Wikipedia


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