Therese Guovelin, First Vice President

Organisational issues The most important trade union issue is also the most difficult to achieve, an equal society. That is how Therese Guovelin sees it, on entering her second Congress period as LO’s First Vice President.

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What is the most urgent issue for you as you enter your second Congress period as LO’s First Vice President?

"The absolutely most important thing is to give every single person the opportunity to prepare for a future job. And not any old job, but the right job, on decent terms where the norm is full time permanent employment.

When the corona crisis broke out in the spring and people were forced to leave their jobs, it became extremely clear that the first 25,000 who reported to the Swedish Public Employment Service were those who were in insecure employment. Overnight they lost their income and they still have bills they are unable to pay.

An education will guarantee their ability to take the decent jobs. This applies to women in particular; we know that women are in the majority in insecure jobs. Therefore it is one of our most important tasks to ensure that everyone can actually afford education and training."

In the spring the LO unions welcomed a great many new members in a short period. What role has LO played in the national unions’ work to safeguard their interests?

"For some time LO has been running the project “Organise or Die” aimed at getting more workers to join the trade unions. The labour market has changed, with more insecure jobs and more smaller workplaces, without trade union clubs or trade union representatives. So we must find new ways to meet members’ needs and expectations. LO has an important role of coordinating that work, centrally, regionally and locally."

Another major issue right now is the Employment Protection Act, how do you regard that?

"I really hope that we can retain the labour market model we have. It is the social partners that are most familiar with the issues and that through agreements can find the flexible solutions the labour market needs. Not the legislators.

Now we need to join up with our counterparts and point out how, through collective agreements and labour market-wide agreements, we actually cope with crises when they come. We have had crises before and there will be more."

What other issues do you see ahead of you in the near future that LO must tackle?

"To retain all the young people who have recently joined the trade unions and unemployment insurance funds, and to recruit even more, I think it is time to highlight the concept of “class and gender”. Unfortunately, this is not out of date. Although we have come a long way on gender equality, it is not far enough. We mustn´t forget the extremely strong remit we have to close the gaps of inequality, but also that it is women who earn least and suffer most ill health – in some occupations even having a shorter lifespan today than ten years ago. So gender equal equality, class and gender. That is the trade unions’ great challenge."

What opportunities do you see for LO?

"Succeeding in breaking even more barriers. Now women are in the majority in the leadership. But there are more barriers to break. Not least as regards insecure employment and gender unequal pay. I hope we will go even further in the next four years as regards positions and the glass ceiling and conquering the last bastions."

What have you learned from this spring’s crisis?

"That it is evident now, more clearly than ever, that the trade union movement has not outlived its role. Increased unemployment benefit and the right to short-term layoffs are just a couple of examples. And it is time to realise our vision of everyone’s equal value and rights and of a strong society, with secure welfare where it is not the size of your wallet that is the determining factor. That is our core mission.

The greatest worry is that politicians will interfere and create even greater imbalance in the distribution of power in the labour market. Both as regards security of employment and in other areas as well. A trade union negotiation is not the same as a political negotiation. Political negotiations end in compromises that reflect the parliamentary situation in the Riksdag. The more that is decided in the Riksdag, the worse it is for us. But the more we ourselves can negotiate with our counterparts, the more workers benefit. Quite simply because then the conditions at workplaces constitute the starting point."