Thursday, April 03, 2008

As Molly has remarked many times before the world anarcho-syndicalist movement is gradually being rebuilt, and is nowadays acting as real unions in many countries. One of these is Sweden, where the venerable SAC already had a strong base before the renewed interest in anarchism of the last few decades. One of the major problems of labour today is the situation of migrant workers, many of them often undocumented. Anarcho-syndicalist and syndicalist unions across the world have applied themselves to organizing these workers. Here is the story of one such effort and its successes.
Illegal immigrants win unpaid wages in Stockholm

The syndicalist SAC union in Sweden has been campaigning for fair wages for illegal immigrants in the last few months, resulting in thousands of dollars in unpaid wages being paid to migrant workers.

The increasing organisation of illegal immigrants within the syndicalist union SAC have lead to more and more blockades to force the payment of unpaid wages, mainly from employment agencies in the restaurant, cleaning, hotel and building industry. Millions Kronor in unpaid wages have been have been won by the SAC. That these companies and their customers don't want to attract attention to their exploitation of illegal immigrants, in most cases the mere threat of a union blockade has been enough to get the wages paid.

Parallel to this defensive work, the SAC have started organising a list of workplaces where the employer is only allowed to employ members from the syndicalist register, working as a closed shop for illegal immigrant workers, setting wages, six-hour-workdays and democratically electing bosses on the workplaces. At the moment these workplaces are paying untaxed wages for illegal immigrants, exchange students and asylum seekers but the aim is to organise this amongst all forms of precarious labour.

The register has been dominated by illegal Latin American workers, but after these 2 victories the SAC hopes for a breakthrough with organising the growing number of illegal Indian/Pakistani workers in Sweden.

But at the Pakistani restaurant Lilla Karachi in Stockholm, the employers tried to set their foot down. The restaurant rejected demands on 80,000 Kronor (£6,150) untaxed wage for a union member and a longer blockade was begun. Since the restaurant is in the same neighbourhood as the Swedish right wing government parties Moderaterna and Centerpartiet, it was soon filled daily with "solidarity eaters" specifically eating there to break the blockade. Leading right wing politicians, led by the daily paper Svenska Dagbladets editorial Maria Abrahansson, were ranting on blogs and in media, calling the blockade an 'mafia tactic' and comparing the SAC with Hell's Angels and Bandits. They have also demanded that police should arrest all the union activists involved and that union rights allowing blockades to be launched be repealed.

After 2 months off daily blockades and the SAC paper Arbetarens explaining that Lilla Karachi owners have threatened the SAC member's family in Pakistan, don't pay the minimum wage in their deal with the social democratic union and have used a fake book-keeper as a witness of innocence in the media, the opinion shifted and a lot of the right wing politicians officially regretted their solidarity eating. After a couple of weeks with hardly any evening customers, the Lilla Karachi restaurant agreed to pay out the wage.

The SAC has also started a conflict against McDonalds who have used an employment agency with illegal immigrants for an hourly pay-rate of 33 Kronor (£2.50) when the union deal is 90 Kronor (£6.90). The same right wing politicians called it mafia behaviour, but McDonald's paid the salaries after only a week off conflict.

So far, the syndicalist register has been dominated by illegal Latin American workers, however, its hoped that these two victories will be a breakthrough for the SAC in organising illegal south Asian workers in Sweden.

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