Klarna employees were left “shocked” after their CEO gave a speech addressing a proposed union strike, in which he appeared to liken pro-strike employees to the rebelling pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, sources say.
Earlier this month, a planned strike by unionized staff at Klarna in its native Stockholm was averted after the Swedish tech firm reached an agreement at the last minute with unions over employee influence at the company.
Klarna signed a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), an agreement between unions (representing employees) and an employer containing rules about working hours, leave and wages.
By signing the agreement, it means that big company decisions, such as layoffs, have to be negotiated via the unions.
On November 8, CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski took charge of a live-streamed “all hands” meeting with Klarna staff on “sharing thoughts about the CBA process, what we have learned and what it means going forward”.
In the meeting, the CEO gave a speech, streamed to its thousands of employees, which was followed by Q&A, in which staff could ask questions.
Tech.eu has spoken to sources that watched the speech, who say they believe he indirectly criticised pro-CBA staff.
During his speech, Siemiatkowski said that he wanted to support employees who didn’t want to strike and those that did want to strike, saying he didn’t want to create division in the workforce.
He said that he could speak frankly now the CBA had been signed.
Kevin Klünder, customer delivery specialist, Klarna, said:
“I am not the only one with the opinion that today’s All Hands Meeting felt like a disaster. He’s (Siemiatkowski) really good at pointing with the finger at other people and to transfer the fault and responsibility away from him and to someone else.”
Sources said during his speech, the CEO indirectly criticised pro-CBA employees, by using different analogies.
At one point, he used an Animal Farm analogy.
Sources say it was a clear reference to Siemiatkowski being the farmer, Klarna staff the animals on the farm, and pro-CBA employees the pigs.
The CEO said that the dispute reminded him of the famous Orwell book.
The moral of Orwell’s book is that all power can corrupt, as the pigs in the book who lead the revolt against the farmer end up oppressing the other animals.
Concerns about the unions
The CEO also called anti-CBA employees brave, who embodied Klarna values for challenging the “status quo”, sources say.
He also alluded to the fact that employees who wanted a CBA would put them in the “comfort” zone, whereas Klarna thrives on being in the “stretch zone”.
During his speech, he also raised concerns about the unions.
Amer Hadsvik, CEO, Singula, the Swedish IT consulting firm, said the CEO “raised reasonable concerns” he had about the unions.
Sources who watched the speech said they were “shocked”, saying it was “pretty unexpected” and that the underlying message was “aggressive”.
Kim Oberg, an ex-Klarna employee, who has posted frequently on the strikes on social media, said:
"I'm honestly at a loss for words at the lack of professionalism he's continually displaying, as well as genuinely flabbergasted at how poor his understanding of Swedish labour market regulation is.”
Klarna declined to comment on the matter.
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