Regional activities – Country Report: HRF, Sweden, Malmö – 18-20/06/2001

HRCT

11th TRADE GROUP
CONFERENCE
Malmö, 18-20/6/2001

Item 5: Regional activities
Country report: HRF, Sweden

Report by the Hotell- och Restaurang Facket (HRF)

In 2001, the HRF union focused on two demanding and important tasks, namely collective bargaining and the holding of the union’s congress.

Collective agreement

A nationwide collective bargaining agreement was signed with the Swedish Hotel and Restaurant Association (SHR), the sector’s leading employers’ federation, on April 22, 2001. The new contract is for the period from April 1, 2001 to April 30, 2004.

The agreement features a number of breakthroughs:

    • a significant increase in minimum pay rates
    • the removal of a seniority indexed pay scale
    • additional days off (including Saturdays)
    • the compensation for evening and weekend work was raised from SEK 11.50 to SEK 15.00.
    • employers and employees are jointly responsible for ensuring that all employees are given adequate opportunities for acquiring qualifications
    • housekeeping:

Prior to the scheduling of housekeeping tasks, the employer must hold consultations with those employees designated by the HRF union. If no representatives have been appointed by the union, consultations must be held directly with the housekeeping staff.

Consultations may extend to such issues as the average number of rooms or beds of which housekeeping employees are put in charge, the quality of housekeeping, housekeeping methods, equipment and occupational safety;

    • improvements in the employment conditions of casual employees in the sector;
    • both parents are entitled to parental pay

Congress

The union’s congress was held in Stockholm from May 12 to 14, 2001.

In his opening address, union president John Herrström reviewed the new collective agreement, which gives added meaning to collective bargaining, in particular for persons in the lowest pay categories. Minimum pay rates had been significantly raised and special attention was put on the unwarranted use of casual employment. He also spoke of the unemployment rate, which had declined in Sweden as a whole but remained high in the hotel and restaurant sector. The unspoken principle of creating “jobs at any price” now had to be replaced with the notion of “jobs, but not at any price”.

John Herrström also underscored the important role of co-operation across jurisdictional lines with members of other unions, in Sweden and elsewhere. When united, the national trade union federations are powerful and can have significant political influence, such as with respect to unemployment compensation and occupational accident insurance, as well as for the purpose of mobilising the trade union movement. He also spoke of the importance of co-operation between unions and political parties. Many of the resolutions before the congress, as well as much of the Union’s work in general, is closely connected to politics, and the president noted that little progress could be achieved in the John Herrström also underscored the important role of co-operation across jurisdictional lines with members of other unions, in Sweden and elsewhere. When united, the national trade union federations are powerful and can have significant political influence, such as with respect to unemployment compensation and occupational accident insurance, as well as for the purpose of mobilising the trade union movement. He also spoke of the importance of co-operation between unions and political parties. Many of the resolutions before the congress, as well as much of the Union’s work in general, is closely connected to politics, and the president noted that little progress could be achieved in the absence of effective political influence.

Congress elected the following top officials

John Herrström as president

Birgitta Kihlberg as second president
Per Persson as the new third president
In addition, participants resolved to support unionised employees at the Jakarta Shangri-La hotel, which had been locked out and were roughed up by the police when they demonstrated peacefully in favour of basic union rights.
Among the key issues that came under discussion was the working environment, in particular the matter of smoking in restaurants.
An extended debate took place concerning whether or not the union should fight for a further enforcement of the law aimed at prohibiting all smoking on the premises. The union does not believe that a total ban is the right answer and advocates instead the availability of smoke-free areas.
Congress resolved to hold a conference on the smoke-free working environment for members of the Hotel and Restaurant Union.
Public opinion regarding smoke-free conditions is changing rapidly today. No law exists that bans smoking in our workplaces. On the other hand, there is a growing acceptance by the sector for providing smoke-free areas. Employees should not be forced against their will to work in an environment where they are exposed to second-hand smoke.
We urge all employers in the sector to effectively ensure that workers are entitled to a smoke-free environment on the job.
Congress adopted several important resolutions that will contribute the future of the HRF union. They included the following:
Union reform

The union’s 1996 congress adopted a program aimed at restructuring the union. Special attention was to be given to the possibility for the union to operate again as an independent organisation, within a ten-year period. This would require the development of a decentralised structure, with an increased role for local organisations, as well as providing members with the conditions, rights and opportunities to take initiatives and design new forms of work.

Initial steps in the reform of the HRF union entail the setting up of more departments as a way to bring the organisation closer to its members and to change the manner in which it operates, including with regard to the respective roles of rank-and-file officials and full-time union staff. An extensive training program was conducted in conjunction with the introduction of the restructuring program.

That initial work must now be followed by a continued development that entails more union presence at the workplace and direct participation by members in the implementation of union decisions, as well as in decisions affecting their life on the job.

Seven areas were singled out as vital to our future progress:

1. We must address the new workplace issues

2. Our presence at the workplace may take any number of forms

3. We must improve our sharing and use of experience

4. We must act together

5. We must develop new partnerships

6. We must improve the manner in which we welcome new members and students

7. We must work more closely with other unions

Future activities

The union’s 1996 congress had adopted a general resolution regarding the future development of the organisation. It reflected the suggestion contained in the report on future activities to build a modern and up-to-date hotel and restaurant employees’ union responsive to the needs of its membership.

The resolution had repercussions in all of the union’s sectors of activity. In terms of trade union education, a special study was started aimed at reviewing programs in this area and at trying out new approaches toward a consolidated education set-up.

Instructions from the executive committee

The union’s executive board issued guidelines in four key areas:
The development of a decentralised trade union education program at the workplace, with an organisation designed to provide support for union activities at the local level.
The integration of education as an active element in union work and the building of stronger links between the aims of the organisation and educational needs.
The articulation of a renewed, sustainable and common education strategy.
The development of a more effective use of resources, along with high-quality education programs.
Union Policy Program for the sector

The Policy Program for the sector concern

    • the impact of unequal and unfair tax treatment
    • bad working conditions and lack of respect for workers
    • casual employment
    • the underground economy
    • improved vocational training
    • permanent education through the organisation of work and continued training

These new policy program represent another step in our effort to develop more pertinent and practical policies for the HRF union.

One of the participants in the Congress put it this way: “I’m pleased with this Congress. I can leave this place without any misgivings about the decisions that were made over the past three days.”