Stockholm, July 22 — The Swedish Union for Service and Communications Employees [SEKO], the national union representing the striking train workers in Sweden against the French-based multinational monopoly Veolia, signed an agreement in late June that ended the conflict. An earlier article in Workers World described the massive sympathy with the strikers from other unions and much of the working-class riding public. (See tinyurl.com/ny8pytj or visit workers.org.)
Under threat of escalating sympathy measures from many of the other national unions, a national agreement was reached that limited the number of part-time employees to 5 percent of the work force. SEKO called the result “a historic victory for the Swedish union movement.” Many on the left here in Sweden, however, see the agreement as a traditional reformist compromise.
The agreement will make it more expensive for the company to hire temporary employees. On the other hand, the workers will have to share the cost for the “flexibility” the bosses demanded. No mention was made of Veolia´s original plan to fire 252 employees.
In keeping with Veolia’s record as an anti-worker, union-busting company, no sooner had the ink dried than management announced new layoffs. They plan to let go 95 workers — 22 of these workers will be rehired but on 75 percent contracts.
In doing this, the Veolia capitalists are not only following their hunger for profits. As one union official said, “They are looking at ideology, the neoliberal ideology, where you have neither unions nor the legal right to strike.” In these circumstances dictated by the agreement, further action by the workers in SEKO, as well as sympathy actions, become illegal.
The challenge now for the local union is how to mobilize the fighting spirit and public support that the strike had galvanized. Only those efforts will determine whether this fight was a small step in the right direction and just how historic a victory was won.