At least 16 people – advisers, political experts, press secretary and administrative staff – in the Swedish Social Democrats’ office in the European Parliament have either left or been fired, in the two-and-a-half years since the 2019 EU elections. Long-term sick leave due to stress.
When the new group of MEPs convened in Brussels after the EU elections in May 2019, 15 people were working in the S. Chancellery. Today, there are only six people left from the original permanent staff.
Many new employees also left after a short time, sometimes only a few weeks later. A total of 20 people now work in the group.
Someone with insight into the S. Chancellery. He says the mood immediately worsened when the five EU parliamentarians Helen Fritson, Evin Enser, Erik Bergqvist, Johan Danielson and Jett Gotland started 2019.
Many employees had difficulty cooperating with some of the politicians they worked with. When they raised these issues, they felt that they had not received support from the leader of the Swedish Social Democratic delegation in Parliament, Helen Fritson.
As head of delegation, Fritson has ultimate responsibility for everyone who works in the office. According to DN sources, several employees have been told that they will be stepping up.
In the past when disagreements arose, and sometimes when you worked a lot and were under a lot of pressure, you could always be honest, and there was acceptance, says someone.
Not everyone shares Helen Fritson’s view. One person said she feels like she’s acting professional.
The problem in this context is that the staff in the office is officially employed by the European Parliament, not by the Social Democrats or any other Swedish organisation. Nor are they members of any ordinary trade union.
High employee turnover It means that the office is understaffed for long periods. Those who stayed in the business had to cover the losses. Many say unreasonable workload.
– You’ll be available all the time, late at night, on weekends. There were always comments about what time people come into the office and leave. Another source says that there were fourteen hours of work per day, without breaks and lunches.
The way people were treated is not befitting a political party, especially the Social Democratic Party.
Staff flight and sick leave led to the appointment of an external work environment consultant in the fall of 2020. Her report was submitted in May of this year. DN read the summary of the conclusions.
“The workplace clearly needs development and improvement work,” she says. “There has been a high level of sick leave associated with stress, and even those who work ‘well’ and keep the mask testify that they are experiencing the situation as unsustainable.”
– The way people have been treated is not befitting a political party, especially the Social Democrats, says another source.
After the chancellor’s report was submitted and a new chief of staff was appointed, the third since 2019, the situation has improved, according to several people DN spoke to. Nowadays, the work environment is treated more professionally, according to the source.
In the European Parliament, staff rotation is very common as the assistant’s employment contract is linked to the member’s term of office. In the moderates, where the four members were newly elected, for example, eight have left since 2019.
Group S is an exception when it comes to contracts. There, employees have permanent positions, which means that a member cannot freely choose their employees.
Helen Fritson does not see that Remarkably, many have left the Chancellery. On the contrary, she believes that it is advantageous to exchange personnel between, for example, government offices and Brussels, between delegation S and other parts of the European Parliament.
– It is a form of continuing education in organizations led by a politician to be in a particular organization for a period of time and then move to the next organization. Helen Fritson says that during the previous period, 2014-2019, there were 17 people who rotated other positions.
It is a form of continuing education in politically led organizations to be in a particular organization for a period of time and then move on to the next organization.
Her picture of ergonomics problems in S-chancellery differs from that painted by DN sources. According to her, there were already problems with sick leave when the new members took office in Brussels in the summer of 2019. Then she appointed an internal investigation.
people of knowledge If the situation at that time rejects information about sick leave problems. According to them, various sick leaves during the previous service period were not related to the work environment.
Helen Fritson also says that the budget allowed for more people to be employed in the office. Accordingly, the current 15 jobs have been increased to 20.
– She was important when it came to distributing work in the office. We’ve started the change work and are now in the middle of building a professional organization, she says.
She said the work was made more difficult by the fact that the pandemic, which struck in March 2020, had limited physical contact.
Do you mean that there were no problems in the work environment at all, except for those related to the epidemic?
Two people stopped during this period because we both saw that this was not the right job, answers Helen Fritson.
But why was an outside consultant appointed in the fall of 2020?
– It was on the recommendation of the Chief of Staff at the time, who had experience in this work before. But there was also a background of long-term sick leave, which one must take seriously.
Helen Fritson reports that many young people with a higher academic education work in the office.
– My experience is that among those, the disease rates are usually a little lower, so it was clearly an indication. But she says it was really reinforced by the fact that we were isolated in a pandemic.
She stresses that working in the office requires a lot.
– In a job like this, you are a high performer and stress resistant. So, we have agreements where you have a slightly higher salary than similar jobs in Sweden and we have negotiated an agreement on compensation days that you can get back.
Including holidays, employees at S-chancellery, depending on age, get between 45 and 50 days off per year.
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