The privileged life of fat-cats at a Swedish trade union

Kommunal, the Swedish Municipal Workers’ Union, is Sweden’s largest trade union with 515,000 members. Their members tend to be among the lower wage-earners in the country, consist of many women members and their 17-strong managing group contains 12 women.

Kommunal members take care of the elderly, do lunches for school pupils, and take care of children in preschool. We drive buses, put out fires, sweep chimneys and drive ambulances. We who look after the animals kept in zoos, tend to the green on the golf course and drive combine harvesters in the country’s fields are also members of Kommunal.

Like many other trade-unions, they have strong rhetoric against elitism and privilege. The rich are bad because they are rich. But, also like in many other trade unions, their “fat-cats” when in power are easily corrupted by their own might and tend to disburse largesse and privilege, among themselves, with gay abandon.

Sweden is currently being entertained by another scandal at the top of a trade union (this happens regularly with big scandals usually appearing about every 5 years). This time it is Kommunal. The “scandal” has been revealed by fearless, intrepid, investigative journalism at Aftonbladet – which is a Social Democrat leaning newspaper – and is generally very sympathetic to the trade unions (except if they have a scoop).

Kommunal union's hot spot - metropol palais image aftonbladet

Kommunal union’s hot spot – The Metropol Palais image aftonbladet

Aftonbladet has revealed that

  1. Kommunal owns and operates a luxury restaurant/night club, The Metropol Palais, which has lost some 320 million kronor (just an investment), and which has arranged porn and strip shows. Male strippers, it seems, are quite regular (which, of course, is not sexist).
  2. They own and operate a fancy conference centre, comprising a number of villas , on an island in the Stockholm archipelago. These villas have been used regularly by the union leadership and their families for free, holidays.
  3. Kommunal own a number of apartment buildings in central Stockholm which are used by leading and privileged union members. They do not, as is general practice even with private apartment block owners, provide half of their apartments to the general housing pool. That practice has built up because of the long waiting lists in Stockholm.
  4. One apartment has even been provided – with a little bit of queue jumping – to the Swedish, Social Democratic, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. It is all above board since she pays 12,432 kronor per month in rent. However, she recovers 12,400 kronor of that from Parliament. (A net rental of 32 kronor per month for an apartment in in central Stockholm is a pretty good deal).

As a consequence of the revelations Anders Bergström, the kommunal union treasurer has resigned. (He was stupid enough to actually be caught in a lie on TV). I note that the only resignation so far is of a male. Other transgressors including the leader of the union, Annelie Nordström, are female – and they are a protected species in Sweden. For his resignation he gets 78% of his salary for 34 months which works out to be about 2 million kronor — which is also a pretty good deal. All the other union leaders are however toughing it out and have no intention of giving up their privileges so easily.

1,400 members have left the union in disgust – so far.

 

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