EPSU’s Swedish affiliate ST holds its Congress 24-26 May 2016

(June 2, 2016) ST, Sweden’s largest union in the state sector with some 90,000 members, 70% of whom are women, held its Congress in Stockholm that meets once every four years.

In her opening speech, Britta Lejon, President of ST (re-elected) and of EPSU’s NEA Committee, was proud to report that the union membership has grown and so has members’ satisfaction rate. She thanked delegates for contributing to a stronger union and a better society.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the right to strike for civil servants, which Britta Lejon said had contributed to a better state administration, a view, sadly, not shared by the Swedish employers who challenge the right to strike at the ILO.

Whereas the Swedish state administration is of a relatively small size, it is very efficient but resources have become too scarce on the face of many challenges such as military and terrorist threats, refugee crisis, climate change, growing inequalities, and resurgence of political extremism.

Members are also facing increasing job insecurity, stress, overload, gender pay gap, problematic management, robotisation or digitalisation of many white collar jobs which means that unions must think ahead about new jobs. Outsourcing is another concern,

which, as often exposed by EPSU, proves to be costly and reduce efficiency of administrations. She called upon the Prime Minister to stop the proliferation of temporary contracts and to support annual gender pay gap reviews.

Britta Lejon was pleased about the government’s plan for a new jobs scheme for refugees including a fast-trackprocedure to access the labour market, as called for by the union. She, however, expressed concerns regarding pending reforms for the long-term unemployed and long term sick and for workers with disabilities. “People affected by  bipolar or autistic disorders, or multiple sclerosis have a lot to contribute to society” she said.

Prime Minister Löfven, former trade union leader, praised the Swedish social model based on social partnership, parental leave, that will be further increased, and a welfare state from cradle to grave. He often has to defend this model when he meets other governments across the world but  “it will not be phased out “ he said.

He called upon ST and its union centre TCO for cooperation on reforming  long term sickness leave (and insurance scheme ) that affect more women than men.

He congratulated ST members for the outstanding work in welcoming 160 000 refugees last year, who have to flee for good reasons, “no other government agency in the world  managed to cope so well” he said. He also made the point that the state administration must be represented and present across the whole territory.

Since Mr Löfven was elected in 2014, some 100,000 new jobs have been created.

Employment remains the country’s top priority based on good pay as a “competitive advantage” and free, strong social partners. Investment in education, skill development, and in schools, “not for top pay earners”, is in the pipeline. He confirmed his support for gender pay annual reviews.

His final words were about Europe, “We need the EU for the people not for the market “,  which is why Sweden will support the proposal for a revised posted workers directive on the principle of equal pay and treatment and respect for collective agreements. He mentioned the EC consultation for aEuropean pillar of social rights, currently discussed in the ETUC, and announced that Sweden will host a social summit in 2017 to discuss, amongst others, the outcome of the consultation.