Despite order in public finances < growth of GDP, low
unemployment (5%), promises about social reforms such as better unemployment pay,
increased subsidises for dental care and real income increase for most people during the
last years, the minority Social democratic Government lost the election in September
The outcome of the election was a disaster for the Social democratic party who only
received some 35% of the votes, compared with almost 40% four years earlier. The big
winner was the Conservative party (Moderaterna) who received more than 26% of the
votes, which was an increase with 11%. In total 82% of the people with voting rights
took part in the election.
One of the main reasons for the change of majority in the parliament was that the
opposition (The Conservative party, the Liberal party, the Centerparty and the Christian
democrats) had formed an alliance where they had agreed on a common programme,
which never had happened before. After the election the political parties in the alliance
formed a coalition Government.
Soon after the election the new government started to reform the social security system
and as always the unemployment fund was of special interest. The main reason for this
is that the unemployment fund is closely connected to the trade unions, which takes care
of the administration of the funds.
The government have in many cases fulfilled the promises they made during the
election campaign. Many of these promises have hit workers very hard and well-off
people have gained.
- Increased fee to the unemployment fund (from 10 Euros to approximately 30-40
Euros due to sector).
- Downsizing of the sick leave pay.
- Downsizing in the insurance for accidents during work.
- Tax reduction for all who has a job. The reduction is many times higher for
people with high salaries.
- Tax reduction on real estate, which give a bigger benefit for people with nice
houses in nice areas. In some cases people with small houses in less fancy areas
have got increased costs.
- Tax on fortunes and capital has been abolished.
The global recession has hit Swedish industry very hard. During the Social democratic
governments, trade unions have been used to cooperate and have a dialogue with the
government about measures to handle a crisis with the aim to minor negative effects.
The conservative government does not even meet trade union representatives and they
do not take very much action to minor negative effects. Their neo-liberal philosophy is
that the market and the financial system should take care of the crisis.
At an early stage of the recession IF Metall urged the government to launch a system to
make it possible for the social partners in the labour market to agree on temporary lay
off similar to systems that many other European countries has. IF Metall asked for
financial support from the government to workers that become laid off as well as
support for education and training to laid off workers. The government refused to listen
and do anything. This forced IF Metall to sign an agreement with the employers, which
gave the opportunity for companies to cut production, and temporary lay off workers.
Temporary laid off workers wage compensation where cut, but never more than 20%.
The cut in working time could be used for education and training.
The election to the European parliament in June 2009 gave more or less the same result
for the established parties as they had 2004. The big winners were the Green party who
more than doubled their votes (from 5% to 11%) and the one-question Pirate party,
whose only issue is integrity and the right to freely download material on the internet.
There was an increase with around 7% when it comes to voters and around 45%
participated in the election.
Human and Worker Rights
So far the government have not made any major negative changes in labour market
laws. The government have surprisingly verbally defended the Swedish model with
strong social partners that negotiate and sign collective agreement. On the other hand
there are forces in the government that would like to downsize the law on employment
security. One other problem is that the government seams to give priority to laws and
regulations about trade and the single market within the European Union, even if it have
a negative impact on the possibility to uphold the Swedish model.
The Textile, Clothing and Leather Industry
The textile, clothing and leather industries continue to recede in Sweden. During the last
four years approximately 2.000 different types of jobs have been lost within various
sectors. Today this sector has a total of 13.000 employees, of which about 4.000 are
Around 90% of these blue-collar workers are members of the If Metall.
The working conditions within the sector are in Sweden regulated both by different
labour market legislation, e.g. job security, working environment and equal
opportunities and by the terms in the national collective agreements between the
national employers’ organisations and the Industrial Workers Union.
The collective agreements stipulates wages, working hours, holidays, sickness and
parental benefits, leave of absence, inconvenient working hours, overtime pay, etc.
According to the national collective agreements the working hour per week is 40 hours.
Every employee has the right to an annual 25-day paid vacation. Above this each
individual worker have another 6 days/year to be free from work as a result of
negotiations about shortening the annual working time.
The Swedish textile, clothing and leather industry has developed into specialising in
many different areas of production and manufacturing technique. However most of the
clothing industry in Sweden has died out.
The textile industry has developed into a sector with high competence in areas such as
spinning, weaving, fibre textile manufacturing, felting, dyeing, dressing and clothing.
The development of new technique both in textiles and merchandise give way to brand
new areas of use. The textile companies show a variety of fields where textile can be
use in the modern society. In the sector you can find weaving mills, knitwear and
clothing companies within a large number of niches, such as interior decoration
manufacturing furnishing fabric, curtains, carpets, tablecloths, bedclothes and towels,
There are also textile companies specialising in health and safety products and hospital
fabrics. Several textile companies supply other industrial sectors with different types of
goods, e.g. airbags, textile in cars and other industrial equipment. Other special areas are
the manufacturing of parachutes, life vests, working clothes, tents and sails.
The market export value of the sector 2008 was 17.9 billion SEK (USD 2.6 billion) of
which clothes was 10.2 billion (USD 1.5 billion). Half the production is exported to
other countries, dominated by the EU-market, but the industry also export a substantial
volume to the Asian and North American market.
Developments in Wages and Working Conditions including work on the “Living
In February 2004 the average hourly payment was 115.70 SEK/hour (Euro 11.5)
including the pay for inconvenient hours and weekends. The average for an industrial
worker was at that same time 116.20 SEK/hour.
There is no longer any statistics on wages in the sectors, but an expectation is that 2009
the average hourly payment is approximately close to 130 SEK/hour (Euro 13)
including the pay for inconvenient hours and weekends.
1 January Industrifacket (Industrial Worker’s Union) merged with Svenska
Metallindustriarbetareförbundet (the Swedish Metal Worker’s Union) and formed
Industrifacket Metall – IF Metall.
IF Metall has approximately around 400.000 members, whereof 100.000 is retired. The
union have members at about 13.500 workplaces that represent a variety of sectors, such
as steel, automotive, mines, engineering, textile, clothing, shoes, leather, oil refineries,
glass, porcelain, ceramics, recycling, building materials, sugar and pharmaceutical
manufacturing, paint, explosives, rubber, plastic, quarries and laundries.
Below is the development of the IF Metall membership of members in active age (no
retired members) since 2006:
Jan 1 2006 343.824
Jan 1 2009 304.504
Textil-, Clothing, Shoe and Leather sectors:
Jan 1 2004 5.850
Jan 1 2009 4.000
Due to the increase of affiliation fee to the unemployment fund, decided by the
conservative government, and due to job losses as a result of the financial crisis IF
Metall have lost almost 40.000 members since the union was founded 1st January 2006.
The general rate of organisation in IF Metall is still high (83%), but to meet the negative
effect by government decisions IF Metall decided to start a two-year campaign on
organising. Approximately 3 million Euros was set off for the campaign. The aim with
the campaign is to organise by mapping all workplaces in our industries and meet
workers and hand out information about IF Metall and most important, to ask/offer
membership in the union.
There are no multinational companies in Textile-, Clothing-, Shoe and Leather sectors.
On the other hand there are multinational retailers which IF Metall tries to keep close
contact with. Both by ourselves and through cooperation with the Commercial worker’s
union as well as through the Swedish Clean Clothes Campaign (Rena Kläder).
In Sweden both men and women are just as gainfully employed.
Approximately 20 percent of all members of the IF Metall are women. Men and women
very often work in different sectors and with different types of work. Female dominated
workplaces and sectors have traditionally harder to get higher wages and other
improvements of the working conditions than male dominated places of work.
The equal opportunity debate is mostly about equivalent wages for the same kind of
work and shared family responsibilities. Sweden has a highly developed parental
insurance which gives the man and the woman the same opportunity to take a paid
parental leave but men only exercise about 21 percent of that paid leave.
The Equal Opportunity Act prescribes the employer to facilitate for both men and
women to be able to combine work with family matters.
At the formation of IF Metall 1st January 2006 it was decided that it is a prioritised issue
to increase equality within the union. As a tool to reach the goal the executive board
decide to adopt guidelines for the work. The most important is:
- Gender equality is a knowledge issue. It is not an individual women's problem.
More knowledge and education is needed.
- Plans for increased gender equality should be worked out on every level in the
The responsibility for gender equality issues lies with the leadership at each
- Within IF Metall there should be at least 30% women in the decision-making
The development is measured periodically. Last follow up, in August 2008,
showed that 16.8% of elected representatives were women and that the number
of female elected representatives has increased significantly during the last
years. The IF Metall national executive board consists of 42% women. Congress
in 2008 consisted of 26% women.
Health and Safety
The conservative government has downgrading the health and safety work in Sweden.
Below is a summary of some of the decisions taken by the government when it comes to
The National Institute for Working Life Research has been closed and valuable research
on work organization, ergonomics and musculoskeletal, physical and chemical health
The government has reduced the Work Environment Authority's appropriation by 30%
with adverse effects on the agency's ability to supervise the labour market. For two
years, the number of visited companies decreased by over 14 percent and the number of
inspections by 19 percent.
The government’s financial contributions to the training of occupational health and
safety representatives have been removed. They will be less educated and will have
more difficult to set requirements for safety improvements, leading to even worse
IF Metall work on OHS
IF Metall is working constantly to try to strengthen H&S-work by:
- Training of occupational health and safety representatives.
- Regular information on health and safety issues sent to trade union elected
- Adopt guidelines and develop support materials for OHS-work, alcohol and
drugs, support material for signing agreements on OHS, rehabilitation work,
occupational health, tools for systematic OHS-work, etc.