Lisa Bengtsson, Second Vice President
Organisational issues After four years as a member of the leadership of the Swedish Municipal Workers’ Union (Kommunal) it is quite clear to Lisa Bengtsson what is highest on the agenda as she now takes over as LO’s Second Vice President; trade union organisation and strong, well-functioning welfare for everyone.
Welcome to LO! Your last position was with Kommunal (the Municipal Workers’ Union), where you were Union Secretary and before that Third Vice President. What will your previous experience contribute?
“Above all, many years’ extensive commitment to organisation and membership recruitment. I think that is quite crucial if we are to have strong trade unions in the future too.
Another aspect is the importance of a gender-equal labour market and a gender-equal society. I have seen what a gender-unequal working life is like, how working women have more insecure employment, more part-time, a more stressful work environment and on top of that do more housework and take more parental leave. That is something I really want to change.
I also bring with me the knowledge of the importance of a strong welfare society. The members of LO unions are largely responsible for the quality of welfare, but they are not given adequate conditions for doing a good job, due to understaffing and too few resources. The rich can always buy better welfare for their aged mother, but the rest of us need strong and well-functioning universal welfare.”
What does LO mean to you?
“A united and strong LO is extremely important for all workers. Quite simply because we are stronger if we work together. This applies to everything, from gender-unequal pay to trade union organisation and trade union education.
I also believe strongly in local multi-union cooperation. I was chair of LO in Uppsala many years ago and saw the strength that comes from being organised locally. You can influence politicians to get better policies for LO union members, you can co-ordinate studies and outreach activities. And not least, you can encourage more LO union members to take a place in politics. It is really important for democracy and social development that their experiences and perspectives are taken into account when political decisions are made.”
Many new members have found their way to the trade unions during the spring. What can LO do to help the national unions retain their interest?
“Even if membership recruitment is mainly the responsibility of the national unions, LO has an important role to play in supporting them to exchange strategies and learn from each other. And not least to develop multi-union cooperation locally.
The corona crisis has clarified the importance of trade union membership. Partly the security it gives, that you can get support and help if something happens at the workplace, and partly the importance of trade union work, such as when the safety representatives have imposed a ban on workplaces that have no protective equipment and raised the alarm about risks and deficiencies, and in that way brought about changes.”
In your eyes, what is the most important question for LO in the next few years?
“Organisation is always the most important thing for the trade union movement. Only by having more members and more active members can we have strong trade unions.
Apart from that, the struggle over security of employment is absolutely fundamental. We need better security of employment as soon as possible, not worse, as some forces would like to see.
The third is of course gender unequal working life and society. It is horrible that in 2020 we still have gender unequal pay. It is about women’s work being systematically valued less than men’s, which is not just wrong and unfair but also terribly out of date.”
Lastly, is there anything close to your heart that is there in all you do?
“The fight against racism and xenophobia. It is ultimately about every person’s equal right to live their life in freedom. In that way it is also a trade union issue. When workers stick together and fight together it becomes very clear that we share the same interests and have the same needs.”