The fast fashion giant has announced major restructuring plans in Sweden, with punishing consequences for its workers. Management intends to dramatically reduce working hours for up to 1,500 people who work in its 69 shops in Sweden and introduce zero-hour contracts for new recruits. The plans have come under heavy criticism from H&M workers’ union Handels. 

In some cases, staff who previously had full-time contracts will have to go down to five hours a week. We have examples of people who have worked for 30 years in the company and as thanks for that they now receive this type of offer,” said Linda Palmetzhofer, President of Handels trade union. 

In October 2022, H&M announced that the workforce would be reduced by 400 employees in the country. At the same time, the company claimed that no redundancies would take place. This plan would indicate that H&M expects employees to decline the offer and resign voluntarily.   

“We understood after a while that this was how they expected to reach the 400. After all, there are many who will say no. How can you live on a contract that gives you five hours a week? It doesn’t work,” said Palmetzhofer. 

Against international aspirations 

H&M has long-term commitments to ensuring fair living wages for the workers it relies on. It is also a signatory of the Global Deal, the ILO’s flagship initiative to strengthen social dialogue, which was launched by the Swedish government.  

“It is worrying to see this announcement in the company’s own host country of Sweden. It goes in the opposite direction of years of good work to lift conditions for working people around the world. Reducing people’s working hours effectively results in serious cuts in pay for people during these difficult times. We expect better than a programme of impoverishing H&M workers,” said Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa.  


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