Sweden: Council workers’ strike gathers momentum

"At last we are fighting back – this is a strike we’ve been waiting for!" That is the overwhelming feeling among the more than 50,000 workers on strike in Sweden from Monday, 12 May.

It is the first major strike since 1995 – eight years ago – and Sweden’s biggest council workers’ strike ever. Low paid workers, mostly women, are demanding a pay rise of 5.5 per cent. Their employers, political representatives from all the establishment parties, are offering a two-year deal with less than 5.5 per cent for most council workers in the first year and only a 2 per cent rise the second year.

The strike is also a fight back against more than a decade of cuts and privatisations. For that reason, the strike has an incredible amount of support from other workers – 84 per cent according to opinion polls.

Every day the political importance of the strike is growing. The question of the distribution of wealth in society is discussed, with increased consciousness of the need for a real workers’ alternative. Social Democratic politicians, as well as people from the Left Party, have actively been scabbing at schools and city dumps. The council workers’ union, Kommunal, has organised picket lines – something not seen in Sweden for a very long time. Unfortunately they are still very lame, without really blocking the scabs from going to work.

Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna councillors build support

The response on the picket lines to the support campaign by Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (the CWI in Sweden) is great. On Monday (12 May) alone, in Stockholm, we sold 73 copies of our weekly paper, Offensiv, to strikers and received 18 new subscriptions to the paper. At one local demonstration, an International Socialist Resistance (ISR) speaker received massive applause from the strikers. Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna local government councillors in Luleå and Umeå have campaigned for and won support for the strike, while representatives from all the other parties have argued against the strikers.

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May 2003