The Swedish Government gives priority to trade union rights

International issues The Government’s Statement of Foreign policy, presented on Wednesday 12 February by the Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, constitutes a clear signal to the outside world that Sweden will play an active role in the strive for openness and solidarity, by standing up for international law and the principle of rule of law. 

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The message is clear when the foreign minister depicts inequality as an individual injustice but also a barrier to economic development. Together with the global trade union movement, LO Sweden shares the opinion that economic and social equality are necessary elements to obtain better living and working conditions but also to counter social tensions and conflicts.

LO appreciates the Statement attaching specific weight to the respect of trade union rights. In the Drive for Democracy initiative, trade union rights will be an integral part. This is positive, and in LO’s view, a prerequisite for the achievement of Sweden’s ambitious foreign policy goals. LO believes that one efficient way to achieve this would be to appoint labour attachés to Swedish embassies abroad. This is particularly important since, in many countries, exerting trade union rights is considered a criminal act and linked to danger for human life. Human rights are in retreat in the world, as is shown by reports issued by the International Trade Union Confederation ITUC. It is therefore even more important that countries such as Sweden stand up as a positive counterforce to protectionism, nationalism and populism. Not least in the EU, where a growing number of member states breed policies based on intolerance and discrimination.

“Inequality is not only unjust and a barrier to economic development – it also creates a breeding ground for tensions and conflict. Greater equality is part of Sweden’s foreign policy - international problems require international responses.” / Ann Linde, Minister for Foreign Affairs

Sweden will continue to drive for the Global Deal, now jointly with the ILO under the auspices of the OECD. LO’s commitment to the Global Deal stems from our experience that social dialogue through collective agreements is an efficient means for workers to gain influence and obtain positive wage development. We therefore appreciate the foreign minister stating that Sweden will remain committed to develop the Global Deal. Intensified action will be needed, and more actors and employers’ organisations need to join, if we want the initiative to grow in strength and give full effect. LO will remain committed to this action.

When human rights are violated and people's opportunities for livelihood and self-determination are limited, conflicts, discrimination and concerns arise. This is perhaps most clearly manifested right now in Palestine, and therefore Sweden's continued support is more important than ever. Every day, large numbers of Palestinian workers pass through to Israel to work. Those most vulnerable workers must be ensured continued support to obtain decent conditions. Therefore, it is of great importance that Sweden's engagement in development cooperation does not decline. When conservative and nationalist parties want to stave off development aid, decency and efficiency must prevail. For LO, it is crucial that resources for conducting international union development work should not be reduced. Supporting people’s efforts towards work and self-sufficiency is fundamental to peace and development.

The Government’s Statement of Foreign Policy, which describes the government's goals and priorities for foreign policy, indicates that Sweden, as a relatively small country, can retain its role and continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the development of democracy. For LO, it is essential that the ambition is transformed into reality and practical action. LO and its affiliates work to build a world where free and democratic trade unions are allowed to grow strong and act freely. This requires a policy pursued in the best interests of union members. Today's Statement of Foreign Policy and the following debate clearly show that it plays a crucial role as to which political party has majority power in Sweden's parliament. Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde shows that she stands up for workers in Sweden and around the world. For feminist foreign policy against discrimination, intolerance and nationalism.

Oscar Ernerot, International Secretary, LO

Link to the Swedish Government's website