Months-Long Spotify Union Negotiations Reportedly Break Down in Sweden: ‘Our Plan Remains To Continue Offering Our Employees First-Class Wages and Benefits’

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Stockholm, Sweden. Photo Credit: Sadia Afreen

Spotify has reportedly withdrawn from collective bargaining agreement negotiations in Sweden, where a number of team members joined unions after the streaming giant laid off nearly 600 staffers back in January.

This newest development in Spotify’s months-long talks with Swedish unions just recently entered the media spotlight in a report from Stockholm-based business-news outlet Breakit. Throughout 2023, the topic’s received little stateside coverage; instead, the unions behind Spotify’s Parcast and Gimlet divisions have made headlines in the U.S.

But according to Breakit, Spotify employees in Sweden formed a Unionen union the day after execs announced the aforesaid 600-person layoff round, which reportedly affected about 100 individuals in the Scandinavian nation.

As of April, one Henry Catalini Smith, chairman of Unionen’s Spotify union, claimed that about “half of Spotify’s employees in Sweden” had unionized; Unionen is negotiating jointly with Akavia and Engineers of Sweden, per the noted outlet.

That same month, these unions are said to have formally demanded a collective bargaining agreement and the start of related negotiations – with representatives setting up shop outside Spotify’s headquarters and expressing the belief that the sought resolution was imminent.

Predictably, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek promptly pushed back against the unions’ demands, touting his company’s seemingly healthy employee compensation and benefits in an internally circulated memo, per Breakit.

Plus, upon arriving at the office one day in April, Spotify workers in Stockholm were greeted “by a DJ, snacks, balloons – and information sheets comparing the collective agreement with the conditions Spotify has today,” according to Google’s translation of a Swedish-language report from the mentioned outlet.

As a noteworthy aside, April also saw Spotify go to court in an effort to secure an exemption from local laws that require a collective bargaining agreement to be in place before employees (approximately 250 engineers tackling unforeseen technical difficulties in this case) can legally work nights.

“Spotify has carried out night work for several years, and it was only after the trade union was formed that the company submitted an application,” Breakit wrote.

Now, multiple months, meetings, and additional layoffs later, Spotify’s discussions with the above-disclosed unions have reached an impasse.

“Although it is regrettable that we did not succeed in this round of negotiations, our desire to find solutions for the company to enter into a collective agreement remains,” Engineers of Sweden negotiations head Camilla Frankelius explained in Swedish.

“While we have great respect for collective agreements and the Swedish model,” a Spotify spokesperson followed up, “our employment conditions and benefits are already as good or better than what is stipulated in a collective agreement and our plan remains to continue offering our employees first-class wages and benefits.”

Needless to say, it’ll be worth closely monitoring the situation – and the next steps taken by the involved unions, especially given their purportedly significant reach within Spotify’s headquarters. Earlier in August, the business, which reported record user growth as well as a substantial operating loss for Q2, partnered with WPP and expanded its AI DJ offering.