Klarna’s unionized employees are “very excited” and “relieved" after a planned strike was averted after the Swedish tech firm reached a last-gasp agreement with unions over employee influence at the company.
The agreement over employee rights, thrashed out on Friday, could prove a watershed moment in Swedish tech, leading to similar type deals at the likes of Spotify, unions say.
The striking of what is known as a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) means that Klarna has an agreement with trade unions Finansförbundet (which has the same parent group as trade union Unionen), Engineers of Sweden, and Akavia.
The agreement follows two unions - Unionen and Engineers of Sweden- threatening strike action on November 7 at Klarna’s Stockholm headquarters.
Klarna employees "very, very excited"
Sen Kanner, a Klarna AML specialist who is also president of Unionen, Sweden’s largest trade union, said:
“Most people are very, very excited. So everyone is really, really happy.
“At the same time, yes, we have a lot of people who are just relieved that we don’t have to deal with this anymore, we don’t have to strike, we don’t have to worry about it.”
Asked whether she was surprised an agreement was reached, Kanner said:
“I thought we were going to have to strike for this to happen, so I was pleasantly surprised that the mediation worked well. And that we managed to get an agreement relatively quickly I would say.”
Over 90 percent of Swedish employees are covered by CBAs, but they are not as common in tech startups, such as Spotify.
On the broader implications of the CBA agreement, Kanner said:
“We will have to wait and see, I hope that this will show tech companies that they have a place in the Swedish model and there are only benefits to unionizing and working alongside your employees.
“I really hope this will be the start of a new trend for tech companies in Sweden and globally.”
Deal could prove critical in Swedish tech sector
Viktor Rosencrantz, ombudsman, Engineers of Sweden, said the deal could prove critical in the Swedish tech sector.
“We think this could influence a lot of other companies. Klarna has made a very wise decision to sign a collective agreement.
“We have a lot of members at Spotify. We have been in previous discussions with them.
“It’s very important to remember these discussions regarding a CBA negotiation, it’s not a 100-metre sprint, it’s a marathon and you have to see it in the long term."
Timo Rybak, a Unionen employee, speaking in a private capacity as is on parental leave, said the deal could have big ramifications for tech companies in Sweden.
“It's a historical victory as tech companies globally are notorious for avoiding unionization and collective bargaining since they wrongfully claim this causes inflexibility when the opposite is true.
“Interest among tech employees in unionization already spiked last year, but this victory shows that it is possible to fight Goliath and win.
“My hope is that it will cause a snowball effect and from the buzz I've been hearing in the last few days I might have my hope fulfilled.
Could Spotify strike similar deal?
“As for Spotify specifically it remains to be seen. But this could provide a lot of moral support and a spark for the ongoing efforts there.”
The streaming giant pulled out of negotiations with unions over a CBA deal earlier this year.
A spokesperson for Akavia said the agreement “holds significant importance" for the Swedish labour market.
"It’s an important example that collective agreements can be perceived as relevant and crucial even for tech companies, and that tailored collective agreements provide predictability for the companies and serve as a tool to secure talent in the global competition among tech companies.
“In this way, we see that the collective agreement for Klarna may also be of interest to tech companies and tech workers in other countries.”
What Klarna says
Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski said:
"I am pleased that we have reached an agreement that combines Klarna's agility with the clarity of the Swedish model.
“Our focus in the negotiations has been to secure operational freedom, to continue to make quick decisions and to continue to cultivate our unique and successful culture, which thousands of employees have expressed their appreciation for this week.
“I am confident that we will benefit from this agreement and that Klarna can contribute to making the Swedish model stronger from the inside."
Lead image via Klarna. Photo: Uncredited.