Congress 2016 The Congress is the ultimate decision-making body of LO and it is held every four years. The latest LO Congress was the 28th Statutory Congress which took place in Stockholm on 17-20 June, 2016. The Congress decided on the guidelines for the LO activities for the coming four-year period. The documents discussed were motions submitted to the Congress and the Congress Report ‘Full employment and a wage policy of solidarity’. The Congress also adopted LO's policy programme for International questions and climate issues
The goal of full employment
High employment rate
For the Swedish Trade Union Confederation full employment means that all those who are willing and able to work should have a job and one job should be sufficient to live on. No-one should need to be unemployed for any more than short periods. But it is not enough to have low unemployment. For the concept of full employment to be meaningful it is also necessary that the percentage of employed people in the population, the employment rate, is high. The more people in work, the better the outlook for financing public welfare. The goal should therefore also be to keep the employment rate high enough to finance generous public welfare provision.
Full, high and evenly distributed employment
The unemployment and employment rates are broad measures that may mask large differences between different groups. For example, the overall employment rate may be high, while women have a lower employment rate than men or while foreign born people have a considerably lower employment rate than native born. The aim should therefore be to minimise these and other differences, so that the unemployment and employment rates are as equally distributed among different groups as possible.
In combination, this means that economic policy should focus on full, high and evenly distributed employment. We consider that ambitious targets should be set. Historically Sweden has experienced a long period that can be said to have been characterised by full employment – the unemployment rate between 1970 and 1990 varied between 2 and 4 per cent and the employment rate was more than 85 per cent in the late 1980s. Even today there are countries that achieve unemployment levels of 3 and 5 per cent with employment rates above 80 per cent. In Sweden there are also groups characterised by very low unemployment and a high employment rate. All in all, in our opinion this implies that full employment would mean an unemployment rate of between 2 and 4 per cent and an employment rate of at least 85 per cent
The LO Executive Council proposes the following:
- The Swedish Trade Union Confederation shall work to ensure that economic policy is focused on full, high and evenly distributed employment.
- The Swedish Trade Union Confederation shall work to ensure that unemployment at most moves within the interval of two to four per cent over an economic cycle
- The Swedish Trade Union Confederation shall work to ensure that the employment rate for 20–64 year-olds is a minimum of 85 per cent
- The Swedish Trade Union Confederation shall work to ensure that the differences in the unemployment and employment rates for different groups are minimised. Examples of these differences are those due to gender, ethnicity, geography, educational level and social background.
Investments to achieve full employment
To achieve full employment, it is important that the overall demand for goods and services is high. Sweden has been experiencing low demand for a long time. The financial crisis that affected the world from autumn 2008 is an important factor. But there are also signs of a more long-term demand deficit. To increase demand, we propose that central government implements an expansive economic programme in the coming years, in order to thereafter stabilise demand at a higher level. The objective of the programme is to strengthen Sweden’s long-term economic development and induce households and private enterprises to increase their consumption and investment.
Fiscal policy programme
Lower interest rates are necessary to boost the economy, but that is not enough. Sweden has reached a point where it is no longer possible to cut the repo rate more. To increase aggregate demand, fiscal policy should therefore also support domestic consumption and investment.
There is scope to make these efforts. Sweden currently has strong general government finances. Since the crisis of the 1990s general government gross debt has fallen from 70 to 40 per cent of GDP. Net general government debt has been turned from a deficit of 30 per cent of GDP to a surplus of just over 25 per cent of GDP. The problem is therefore not public finances but shortcomings in other areas, such as a growing housing shortage, falling school results and too little investment in preparatory labour market policies.
The LO Executive Council proposes the following:
- The Swedish Trade Union Confederation shall work to ensure that the Riksbank’s monetary policy mandate is clarified, to include both stabilisation of inflation around the inflation target and unemployment around a long-term sustainable level
- The Swedish Trade Union Confederation shall work to ensure that fiscal policy is to take greater responsibility for stabilising Swedish economic development
- The Swedish Trade Union Confederation shall work to ensure that there are complete, temporary, fiscal policy packages for adjustment when there is a sharp recession
- The Swedish Trade Union Confederation shall work to ensure that the automatic stabilisers in unemployment insurance are reformed so that workers are given full and reliable income protection
Since the 1990s Sweden has suffered from high unemployment. What is needed is a new economic policy that combines full employment and fair wages with today’s open economy.
Tasked with preparing a basis for broad discussion in the union movement for the purpose of modernising the wage policy of solidarity, with special focus on unequal wage dispersion, gender equal wages, wage drift and international competitiveness, LO presented to the 2016 Congress the report:
Full employment and a wage policy of solidarity, which was adopted by the Congres.
About the congress
Investing in equality
The Congress is the ultimate decision-making body of LO and is held every four years. The Congress of 2016 was the 28th Statutory LO Congress and it took place in Stockholm on 17-20 June, 2016.
The Congress decides the guidelines for the LO activities for the coming four-year period. The documents discussed at the 2016 Congress conisisted of 308 motions submitted by the affiliates or their local sections, and the Congress Report ‘Full employment and a wage policy of solidarity', which was adopted.
The Congress also elected the President, Vice Presidents as well as the members of the Executive Council.
The national unions affiliated to LO were represented by totally 300 elected delegates, in proportion to the membership figures: The Building Workers’ Union 18, The Electricians’ Union 5, The Building Maintenance Workers’ Union 6, GS (the union of forestry, wood and graphical workers) 10, The Commercial Employees’ Union 30, The Hotel and Restaurant Workers’ Union 7, IF Metall 59, The Municipal Workers’ Union 120, The Food Workers’ Union 6, The Musicians’ Union 1, The Painters’ Union 3, The Paper Workers' Union 4, The Union of Service and Communication Employees 18, The Transport Workers’ Union 13.
In addition to the delegates, the members of the Executive Council (14) and the members of the General Council (94) participated in the work of the Congress. Totally, about 1,100 people attended the Congress, including national and international guests and journalists.
The Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO) in the world
The Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO) works for a world in which free and democratic trade union organisations can grow strong and operate freely. We work for a world in which national and international regulations guarantee workers’ fundamental trade union and human rights, both in working life and in society.
In the globalised world we live in today we aim for social, economic and environmental sustainability. This means that initiatives for inclusive economic development must have equality, fair distribution, gender equality, full employment and social protection as guiding principles.
LO’s task of safeguarding its members’ interests requires cross-border trade union work. Trade union collaboration within the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is of considerable significance for international trade union successes, particularly as regards the fight against social dumping.
National management of a growing number of trade union policy areas is influenced both directly and indirectly by decisions in international bodies. For example, more than half of the questions on the national and municipal political agenda in Sweden are influenced by the EU. We are also influenced by developments in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the UN and its labour organisation the ILO, as well as by bilateral trade agreements signed between the EU and other regional associations or states.
The elections committee’s proposal for the new LO leadership
The following persons were elected, upon proposal of a unanimous elections committee, to lead LO for the forthcoming four years.
President: Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson, re-election
First Vice President: Therese Guovelin, President of HRF (The Hotel and Restaurant Workers’ Union)
Second Vice President: Berit Müllerström, now Head of the Organisational Development Unit, Kommunal (The Municipal Workers’ Union)
Negotiating Secretary: Torbjörn Johansson, re-election
LO and the Swedish labour market
LO and the Swedish labour market
It all began with a vow:
“We do solemnly swear that we will never under any circumstances work for lower wages or under worse conditions than what we now promise one another. We make this vow, in the secure knowledge that if we all are true to our pledge the employer will be forced to meet our demands.”
We call this “the trade union vow”, the vow that laid the foundation for the first Swedish trade unions in the 19th century. Eventually these different local unions formed national unions and in 1898 these national unions founded LO, the Swedish Trade Union Confederation.
Greetings to the Congress
Programme speech by LO President