Swedish insurance sector trade union Forena is calling for the country’s cross-party pensions group to be phased out, saying a review it carried out showed the group it had failed in its mission, and should be replaced with a commission with wider political representation.
The broadside comes at a time of political crisis in Sweden, with the speaker of the country’s parliament (Riksdag) now consulting party groups in order to propose a new prime minister.
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven lost a vote of no confidence on 21 June on the issue of rent controls.
Forena chair Anders Johansson and the union’s head of social policy Håkan Svärdman said in a column in Swedish business daily DN: “When we make an overall assessment of the results of our review, we unfortunately have to state that the pensions group has failed in its mission.”
Formed in 2007, the pensions group is a working group consisting of representatives of the political parties behind the 1994 pension agreement – the governing parties as well as the Moderate Party, the Liberals, the Centre Party and the Christian Democrats – which is chaired by Minister of Social Insurance Ardalan Shekarabi.
According to the government, the group’s task is to safeguard the pension agreement and to nurture the pension reform and its basic principles.
But Johansson and Svärdman wrote in the column that the group’s work had never been evaluated, internally or externally, since its inception, arguing: “The explanation is probably the group’s highly unclear formal and legal position within central government.”
The group should be seen as a loosely-composed political review body for the incumbent government, they said, adding that minutes of the group’s meetings were not published.
“We know more about the considerations that guide Swedish monetary policy set by the Riksbank’s executive board, than about what is said by members of the pension group,” they wrote.
Johansson and Svärdman outlined several problems with the pension system, and said the group had failed by abandoning its key principles, focusing on issues outside the pension agreement, and by being too slow to act when shortcomings in the pension system came to light.
“If the ambition is to safeguard the pension agreement, which we are convinced would serve both the pension system and Sweden well, the pensions group must be wound up,” the pair wrote.
Sweden’s new government should therefore appoint a pension committee immediately, they said, in which all parliamentary parties were welcome to participate.
Its mission should be clarified as one of maintaining and developing the Swedish pension system, the Forena officials said.
Two years ago, members of parliament belonging to Sweden’s Left Party (Vänsterpartiet) called for the pensions group to be disbanded, with Ali Esbati saying the party was strongly critical that such crucial issues were being handled by “a closed group without the possibility of transparency or influence for outsiders.”
Asked by IPE for comment on the criticism by Forena, a government spokeswoman for Shekarabi said: “The Swedish Prime Minister and the other ministers were dismissed by the Speaker of the Riksdag on the 28th of June. Since the government is now a caretaker government, Ardalan Shekarabi declines to comment on this subject at this time.”