LO aims to improve the situation of undocumented workers

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On the initiative of Fastighetsanställdas förbund (Building Maintenance Workers’ Union), the LO Congress today discussed the situation of undocumented workers. The Congress decided that measures should be adopted to decriminalize their work status, while the LO must find ways of assisting these unprotected workers.

At present it is difficult for the unions to assist undocumented individual workers; they are not eligible for traditional membership as this could entail the risk of dismissal and deportation. On the other hand, the unions cannot accept illegal employment or employment for wages below collective agreement levels with no social benefits.

The LO is already in contact with the undocumented workers’ association; this cooperation must be taken further to improve these workers’ situation. All workers must be protected, regardless of their status or trade union membership. Undocumented workers are at the mercy of unscrupulous employers; no worker should have to suffer exploitation or discrimination in working conditions which do not comply with norms established by collective agreement.

The LO intends to find ways to represent undocumented workers, the aim being to provide support for all workers on the Swedish labour market, regardless of status. In order to protect the most vulnerable members on the Swedish labour market, the LO wants changes made in the Swedish Aliens Act so that workers without work or residence permits will no longer be considered criminals. As with prostitution, it is the customer, or in this case the employer, not the exploited worker who should be punished. It should also be possible to impose a fine on the employer equal to the difference between the wage actually paid and the standard wage in the industry, or in cases of gross abuse of these very vulnerable workers, a general indemnity.

Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO) organises 15 unions with a union density of 76 percent of the blue collar workers. Wanja Lundby-Wedin is president of LO and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).