Labour migration law ‘costs Sweden IT jobs’

Top Swedish IT companies are facilitating the disappearance of Swedish jobs by abusing work permits which allow them to bring skilled foreign workers into the country, a Swedish union has complained.

According to Swedish trade union Unionen, it’s common for Ericsson and other IT companies to attract and train foreign workers in Sweden so they can perform similar tasks back in their home countries.

The practice will result in the disappearance of Swedish jobs, the union claimed.

The union alleges that two Ericsson departments are currently training a number of Indian workers. After the workers return to India, half of the employees in the departments in Sweden will lose their jobs when their positions are outsourced to India.

“To a certain extent, the foreign workers are used for that purpose,” Tomas Svartling, collective wage agreement ombudsman for the IT industry at Unionen, told the TT news agency.

The permits are issued under 2008 reforms to Swedish laws governing labour migration which give companies more leeway in decisions about the issuance of Swedish work permits.

Unions have previously criticised the law for leading to abuses of low-skilled workers such as berry pickers and other agricultural workers.

But now labour groups are also attacking the law for the effect it may have on high-skilled jobs.

Ericsson is constantly moving its activities to other countries, often from Sweden to cheaper manufacturing countries such as India, said Unionen

“It is not about labour migration, but rather a visit to transfer skills,” said Per Norlander, the chairman of the local chapter of the white collar Akademikerföreningen union at Ericsson in Linköping.

Ericsson has applied for work permits from the National Migration Board (Migrationsverket). According to its statistics, computer scientists and engineers are the second most common occupational group that receives work permits for Sweden, around 2,000, after berry pickers.

Unionen was formed after the merger of HTF and Sif on January 1st, 2008, becoming Sweden’s largest trade union representing private labour market and the world’s largest white-collar union.

Attempts by The Local to reach Ericsson, Unionen and Akademikerförbundet on Tuesday for further comment were unsuccessful.

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