An emergency agreement between Swedish unions and employers, dating back to the country’s devastating forest fires in 2018, has benefitted many frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Emergency Situation Agreement regulates pay and conditions for personnel working in an emergency situation. It provides for greater flexibility in working hours, and also allows staff to move quickly to other workplaces where they are most needed, as well as receiving higher pay. The agreement covers over one million employees in healthcare, care services, schools, infrastructure and emergency services.
The deal was activated in April in the Stockholm region, where the majority of the country’s coronavirus victims have been diagnosed. According to reports, some frontline workers are earning more than double their salary during the pandemic.
At the same time, thanks to a deal between the government, Sweden's largest union Kommunal, and the country's municipalities, up to 10,000 nursing assistants and care workers will be hired on a permanent basis to fill gaps in elderly care exposed by the coronavirus outbreak. According to the union, 40% of staff at nursing homes in Stockholm were unskilled workers on short-term contracts, with hourly wages and no job security. This meant that often they could not afford to miss work even if they were sick.
Image: Darko Stojanovic