We know much about entrepreneurial manoeuvrings. I narrate my experiences with two Swedish companies.
As a student, when I needed some money in 2010, I got a weekend work of reklam (campaign/ads) distribution in Stockholm. They gave me four districts (units) of distribution areas, each for 60 Swedish kronor (SEK). If the weight exceeded a specific limit, they would pay some extra money. The time was quite long, and the money was merely enough for paying half of the rent of 18 sqm corridor student-room, shared with another person.
After a couple of months, negotiations began between the union and the distribution companies, which resulted in raising the per-district wage from SEK 60 to SEK 80. However, we were shocked when the next monthly-wage fell from 1600/1700 SEK to 1300/1400 SEK. It happened because of the union’s demand for the rise in wages while neglecting or compromising on the weight factor. Thus, the employers intelligently fooled the already fool union and succeeded in lowering their liability. Consequently, they made us deliver very heavy paper-advertisements for very little money. I quit work after a couple of months.
Later, in 2011, I joined another company for distribution in the early morning. There we had to deliver papers, weekly and monthly magazines, campaigns, and routine medical appointments. We had to begin around 2 am and finish before 6 am. Our per hour salary was 112 Swedish kronor with a contract of 12 hours per week. With some extra work, often due to the absence of colleagues, most of us could make a salary of 13000 SEK every month before tax.
With time, we developed skills to complete the work quickly. We got good cars which broke less often. We developed skills to drive efficiently in heavy snowfalls and to avoid getting stuck in the snow. We found the more convenient plans of the work-order and made our own customised arrangement of work, which allowed us to work more speedily. Then, we memorised the street names, house numbers, and even the nameplates on the doors of the apartments.
As time passed, most of us got fixed areas of distribution according to seniority. Allotment of fixed districts (units) brought great relief as each of us memorised the whole area and even names. Consequently, each of us could finish the 3-hour area in 2 hours approximately. This leisure gave us a great time and space for one another. We got more time and chances to sit in the office and chat. Some wiser among us advised not to reach office back before the time and stay in our working districts. However, the young guys had their own issues, arguments and judgments based on the company’s historical outcome-oriented approach, instead of the process.
To their bad luck, the employers did not like their early finishing. They termed it as their generosity instead of worker’s efficiency. Therefore, they began applying tactics, restructuring of work-districts, and negotiations with some decent guys of the unions. Surprisingly, one guy in each regional office re-calculated the early-fixed working-durations while sitting on a computer. In contrast, the previous official procedure of assessments was based on the fieldwork of two or three individuals, including a union representative.
Consequently, the outcome was that the company contracted the working hours and made two new districts of almost each three old districts. Thus, three districts of nine hours in total (three-hour each) became two districts of six hours (three-hour each). As a result, my colleagues were earning almost the same wage in 2018 (as that was in 2011), despite the fact the per-hour wage had risen from 112 SEK to 150 SEK and that the per-weel contract duration had increased from 12 to 20 hours or more.
Despite tactfully ignoring the employees’ efficiency, the company succeeded because of the weakening unions. Secondly, the company exploited the inflows of internal and external immigrants to Sweden, particularly from Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, and Hungary. When many of my colleagues left the company and chose small businesses, the company felt better as they got new employees with lower wage levels.
They say they look into inflation while discussing wage increments. I wonder if the companies and unions will ever consider while negotiating on the wages, the depreciating bodies of the workers.