Building and Wood
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Per-Olof Sjöö has recently returned from Danville, where he met with employees at Swedwood factory. Per Olof is the president of the Swedish union GS, which represents Swedwood workers in Sweden.
“Their stories underline the importance of the existence of a trade union there.”
When Per-Olof Sjöö was in Danville, Virginia, last week he met about 30 people working at Swedwood factory.
The talks focused partly on how unions and collective agreements work in Sweden. In addition, Per-Olof Sjöö been told many stories about what it's like to work at the Swedwood plant in Danville.
“The most consistent theme I believe was the fear factor. Partly, people dare not openly support the union. Firstly, people are worried that the union would be recognised and come in and negotiate a collective agreement, then the factory would be closed down.”
“But the whole problem cannot be blamed on Swedwood,” believes Per-Olof Sjöö.
“You have to take in the environment as it is in Virginia and the very anti-union atmosphere that prevails there. It is characterised by that, so it's not just because you have started working at Swedwood that you have that feeling, but it is almost built-in.”
Ikea said they will take signals about the ills in Danville seriously. In May, they conducted an on-site audit and the results are mainly good, according to Ikea.
But Per-Olof Sjöö believes that the control that Ikea would normally carry out to ensure that production units and suppliers follow Ikea's internal code of conduct does not work in such a strong anti-union atmosphere of that in Danville.
“If they send auditors there who should talk to people about how it is, I mean what can one expect as answers in such a setting? It does not work. There, both Ikea and Swedwood have a responsibility.”
Per-Olof Sjöö thinks that companies can choose to act on three different aspects in these kinds of conditions.
“Either use the fear that exists for their own purposes. And I cannot claim that either Ikea or Swedwood has done that. The second option is to turn a blind eye to it, and I think that they have done this. The third option is that they compensate for it and are extra clear, but they have not been.”
How would Ikea or Swedwood be able to compensate, do you think ?
“Just such a simple thing as to say clearly that the Danville factory's future does not hang on whether it is unionised or not. Such a simple statement on the floor from the highest level would help a lot.”
Per-Olof Sjöö intends to take with him his impressions to the Swedwood group management and union representatives that are in the company in Sweden. During the visit to Danville, he did not manage to not make contact with management locally.
Original article published in Dagens Arbete , by Marie Edholm – July 1, 2011