Leftist sections in Sweden have raised serious concerns over the ongoing negotiations for modifying the Employment Protection Act (LAS) in the country. Despite opposition from several trade union affiliates, the majority in the Swedish Trade Union Confederation decided on October 15, Thursday, to resume talks with the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise and the Swedish Council for Negotiation and Cooperation over the recommendations to modify the LAS. Left forces have argued that the ongoing attempt to modify the LAS is intended to dilute labor rights and caters to the profit motive of business groups.
Attempts to modify the LAS were initiated as per the understanding between the incumbent minority Social Democrat-Greens government, led by Stefan Löfven, and its supporters in the parliament, the Center Party and the Liberals, following the elections in 2018. The major right-wing parties in the opposition have also not spoken out against the talks. The Left Party, which also supports the government from outside, has however objected to the changes to the LAS which are detrimental to the working class. It has challenged the government with a vote of no-confidence.
The Communist Party of Sweden (SKP) has stated that these changes are likely to take away many of the hard earned rights of the working class, adding that “nothing but complete security for all employees is acceptable.”
As per the SKP, the purpose of the changes is to increase the flexibility of employment. Up till now, the principle of “last in, first out” prevented the arbitrary firing of workers and offered them a certain amount of protection. Under this norm, the last worker to be hired would also be the first one to be let go. One of the most important aspects of the proposed changes to the LAS is to increase the number of exceptions to this rule, and enable every company, regardless of size, to apply these exceptions. Simultaneously, the changes would make it easier for smaller companies to let go of staff. According to the proposed changes, companies with 15 or less employees will no longer have to state a legitimate reason for laying off workers.
As per the SKP, the proposal for changing the Swedish labor law is aimed at adapting to an international situation characterized by increased global competitiveness, whereby Swedish companies and monopolies must strengthen their growth and profits to be able to compete in the international markets. This is being accomplished by sacrificing the rights of the Swedish working class, the SKP said.
The Communist Party (KP) asserted that “on the pretext of ‘modernizing’ the Employment Protection Act, the government and its support parties have conducted an investigation that proposes major deterioration in employment protection. It will be easier and cheaper to cancel people and more employees should be exempted from the order.”
The LAS, in place since 1982, provides extensive protections from termination for employees and regulates some employment contracts.