“It is all anyone is talking about” at Klarna, says a Klarna employee who is also a top union official, ahead of an expected strike next week by Klarna employees in a dispute over employee influence at the Swedish fintech giant.
Sen Kanner, a Klarna AML specialist who is also president of union Unionen, Sweden’s largest trade union, is talking about the impending strike on November 7 at Klarna’s Stockholm headquarters.
Collective Bargaining Agreement
The dispute is over what is called a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), an agreement between unions (representing employees) and an employer containing rules about working hours, leave and wages.
Over 90 percent of Swedish employees are covered by CBAs, but they are not as common in tech startups and Klarna’s Swedish employees are not covered, nor are Spotify staff.
Unionen and another striking union Sveriges Ingenjörer want an agreement and are threatening strike action if they don’t get it.
According to Sifted, other unions are following suit but one trade union Akavia does not want a strike.
The striking unions say signing a CBA will mean that big company decisions, such as layoffs, would have to be negotiated via them and a CBA would enhance employee influence and benefits within the fintech.
“A CBA gives employees a voice in a lot more decisions before they are put in place. “That is what we are fighting for,” says Kanner, who has been with Klarna for more than five years.
Klarna disagrees and says the proposed CBA would stop it from working quickly and inhibit its flexibility.
Its CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski says he’s unconvinced that the proposed CBA would provide better working conditions to employees than what the company currently offers.
Siemiatkowski has previously said:
"We also raised comments from our staff about a lack of evidence that a large enough number of employees want this change. Unfortunately, the unions didn't want to share that kind of information with us either."
Klarna has around 2,000 staff in Sweden, according to the unions but it’s unclear how many of those are set to strike.
“We have a really good assumption but for leverage purposes, we are not going to share that with the media. We are going to be enough,” says Kanner.
The unions have been negotiating with Klarna for months but have failed to thrash out an agreement.
Kanner says the agreement has become a “massive” issue at Klarna in the past few weeks.
“It became a really, really big deal in the company, because suddenly Sebastian was talking about it internally.
"We had higher management getting involved and sharing information, there have been flyers passing around, all hands meetings. Now over the last two weeks, it is all anyone is talking about within Klarna.”
One of Kanner’s complaints is she says Klarna top management were not involved in negotiations from the get-go.
“If we would have this (engagement from senior Klarna management) anytime in the past six months, while the negotiations were still ongoing, we wouldn’t have had to resort to a strike.”
But Klarna says it was the unions who walked away from the negotiations.
“What Klarna has been attempting to do is kind of gauge how many people are going to strike? How many people are not going to strike? Without actually getting to know union membership.
“But it is creating this kind of uncomfortable situation. It is giving a really bad atmosphere.”
She says that union representatives are busily reminding Klarna staff they don’t need to divulge to Klarna whether they plan to strike.
Being a prominent union voice, is she concerned about the security of her role at Klarna?
She says she was offered a severance package in 2022 as part of broader job cuts and her role is being outsourced to Accenture.
She says she feels “targeted” and adds “I am being asked to leave the company once again. I will continue to say no, I will continue to fight to stay at Klarna.
“As far as repercussions go, I think if I am still at the company then people should feel relatively safe.”
“Even though I try to instil confidence in my colleagues, it’s really difficult.
“I constantly have messages from people telling me ‘I really wish I could support you publicly. I am going to strike, I am very supportive of the CBA but I cannot write that on Slack right now because I am scared of what is going to happen.’”
A spokesperson for Klarna said: “We have been and continue to be open to a collective agreement, if we believe it is the best for our employees and for Klarna in general.
“However, the proposal that has been presented to us so far is not right for us, as it is not adapted to either banks in general or to Klarna's operational model in particular.
“It was the unions that chose to leave the negotiations, not Klarna. Our CEO, Sebastian, has also pointed out that he wanted to stay involved in the negotiations.”
Lead image: Photo by Benjamin Child