New union leaders offer promise of change

Three Swedish trade union organisations have recently elected new chairs and a fourth will soon follow suit. GöranArrius, Eva Nordmark and Annika Strandhäll have clear visions of what they want to accomplish in their new positions and a common theme seems to be to increased flexibility in the Swedish labour market and making it easier for young people to find jobs. Discrimination against immigrants and gender equality are also on the agenda as the new leaders settle into their roles.

GöranArrius, SACO: hard work should be rewarded

GörranArrius, former Chair ofthe Swedish Union of University Graduates(Jusek), assumed his position at the Swedish Federation of Professional Associations (SACO) at the end of August 2011. In this new role, his aim will be to focus more on individuals and less on the collective, which primarily means setting individual wage rates.

Arrius says hard work and higher levels of responsibility should be rewarded. His argument is that the Swedish notion of equality of income is devastating for the country’s future. Those who convert knowledge into action and become more highly productive through education should be paid better wages, and people should be encouraged to do this, he says.

He also wants to see increased flexibility inthe labour market to encourage the flow of ideas and experience among workplaces and in working life in general.

Eva Nordmark, TCO: it should be easier to change jobs

Eva Nordmark was elected Chair of the Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees (TCO) in May 2011, and has – like GöranArrius – previous experience as Chair of the Swedish Union of Local Government Officers(Vision).

She has become known as a union innovator, and wants TCO to be perceived as an organisation that is full of ideas able to offer helpeven to successful individuals with high career ambitions.

In an interview for the TCOpaper, she says the confederation should not only support employees during setbacks, but also during success. She also wants everyone to have the same chance to progress in their careers.

Nordmark’s focus is the creation of more and better jobs, investment in education and research and the importance of looking after the creativity and commitment of every employee. She firmly believes education will improve flexibility inthe labour market, meaning more people can change jobs and young adults can more easily find employment.

Annika Strandhäll, Vision: stop structural wage differentials

The new Chair of the Swedish Union of Local Government Officers (Vision), Annika Strandhäll, has been promoted from Vice-Chair of the union. She will continue to battle structural wage differentials and will campaign for the creation of a gender equality commission.

This has been one of Vision’s aims since autumn 2010, but Strandhällsays she will turn words into action and invite the social partners and the government to a first meeting to discuss the importance of such a commission.

Another new project for the unionis Strandhäll’sambition to create an anti-discrimination agreement that will reduce the high unemployment rate among immigrants in Sweden. She hopes this will translate into an effective tool against discrimination in the workplace.

The next Chair of LO has to unite the confederation

The current Chairof the Swedish Federation of Trade Unions (LO), WanjaLundby-Wedin, announced her resignation earlier this year and will leave her position at the confederation’s next congress in spring 2012. As might be expected, media speculation about who will succeed her is already rife. However one thing is clear; regardless of who the next chair is, he or she has to be able to unite the confederation and avoid disruption among its different factions.

In an article published in the Swedish Daily Paper (SvD) in January 2011, WanjaLundby-Wedin saidany future chairwould have to come from the organisation’s own member base. Whoever that may be, only time will tell.

Commentary

A few common themes can be found among the objectives of the three newly elected chairs. More investment in education and increasing flexibility in the labour market are aspirations shared by both SACO’s GöranArrius and TCO’s Eva Nordmark. Making it easier to enter the labour market is considered a necessary change by Nordmarkand Vision’s Annika Strandhäll, although each has different measures and target groups in mind. The outcome of these ambitions – and the objectives of the future chair of LO –remain to be seen.

References

Kierkegaard, M., ’Annika Strandhäll ny ordförande i SKTF’, Tidningen Vision, 14 June 2011

SKTF, ’Annika Strandhäll ny SKTF-ordförande’, press release, 14 June 2011

Sten, G., ’En sjöofficer och banktjänsteman’, press release, 29 August 2011

Von Scheele, C., ’Sacos nye ordförande: Öka lönespridningen’, TCO-tidningen, 19 Augusti 2011

Mats Kullander and Kina Lundqvist, Oxford Research

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