The management of transnational company Connex on Thursday sacked Per Johansson, secretary of the fighting trade union branch, Seko 119, which organises 700 underground train drivers. This signals the most serious attack so far of this kind for a long time, testing both the solidarity of the trade union movement and labour rights.
Strong protests from workers on Stockholm’s underground system
Per Johansson has acted with the full backing of the branch committee and union members in criticising the lack of security in Connex-run trains. He has thereby defended the security not just of the train drivers, but also of millions of people travelling on local transport. Connex won the contract for Stockholm tube system when the regional council decided to "open up" transport for private companies.
The decision about the sacking and immediate suspension from work was announced by the company on Thursday after a "very short meeting" by the top-three bosses, including the boss of Connex in Sweden, Pelle Svensson. Before any notification to the union as press release was posted all over the underground announcing that Per Johansson had been sacked. He was accused of being "disloyal to the company" and according to management has shouted at other employees (this refers to Per Johansson’s criticism of a scab crossing the picket line in a previous strike).
The real reasons
The committee of Seko branch 119, which we met on Thursday afternoon, did not have any doubt about the real reasons for this action. The struggle of the branch against the shortcomings in security has resulted in big headlines in the media. This, however, has not been done in a careless way. It has been steps taken after attempts to raise the problems with the company and when union security stewards have acted. There have been serious incidents, for example a fire on a train at Rinkeby station and a suicide case where the drivers’ front window was broken. The branch has also criticised alarm telephones and emergency exits that did not work.
"Connex had systematically ignored notifications from state bodies as the Workplace security authority and the Railway board", says Per Johansson.
All members in the union committee have the same opinion.
"It’s an attempt to scare us into silence, because they know that Per Johansson has not acted on his own", comments Moncef Jerbi, secretary in one of the sections of the branch.
Connex media strategy
That Connex was expecting a protest storm is clear from a 4-page memo on media strategy that Offensiv got hold of. The headline is "Message and strategy: case PJ", and the first point states that the security issue should be kept separate from the sacking. The memo included exact sentences for company representatives to use to the media.
The branch committee also found out that Connex keeps registers with files for individual employees. For Per Johansson, the file only included cuttings from Offensiv, for example an article from 2002.
The national leadership of the union has condemned the sacking, and among members the mood is angry. What kind of actions this will lead to is not clear yet.
Offensiv and Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden) appeal to all trade union and political activists to immediately send messages of protest and support, with following demands:
- the sacking of Per Johansson must be withdrawn
- the trade union movement must mobilise in protest against the sacking
- the regional council should stop the privatisation and itself run the underground again
- that the ruling parties in the regional council – Social Democracy, the Left Party and the Greens – should condemn the sacking
Messages should be sent to:
SEKO branch 119, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Boss of Connex: pelle.svensson@Connex.se
Leader of regional council’s local transport board: email@example.com
Leader of Stockholm regional council: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also send copies to: email@example.com