The Swedish Board of Migration recently lost a landmark court case after it attempted to sack an employee in Gothenburg, Sweden, for his private opinion that Israel is a democracy. The court ordered the Board of Migration to reinstate the employee. In an unprecedented turn of events, the Swedish Board of Migration has instead chosen to use public funds to buy off the employee rather than reinstate him – a move that, even more remarkably, is permissible under Swedish law and cannot be contested.
The Swedish Board of Migration demoted its employee Lennart Eriksson after he was found to operate a website in his private time and from his own home computer in which he maintained that Israel is a democracy and mentioned that he votes Conservative. He was told by his manager that these were “unorthodox” views. It should be pointed out that the coalition government of Sweden is led by the Conservatives, and Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East, holding free elections.
The Board of Migration then took steps that in effect demoted Eriksson, measures that the court ruling in November this year equated with unlawful dismissal from his place of work. As such, the Board of Migration’s actions were deemed in contravention of Sweden’s tightly regulated employment legislation.
In its judgement, the court did not take up the issue of whether Eriksson’s demotion and sacking violated his freedom of speech, an issue that he wanted tried in court, focusing solely on the actual legalities of his dismissal. It found that his dismissal was illegal.
After the verdict was announced, both Eriksson and his legal team expected that he would be fully reinstated and allowed to return to his job, a job that he had always fulfilled to the total satisfaction of both his co-workers and superiors. However, the Board of Migration announced in mid-December that it has no intentions of obeying the court order and instead chooses to use public funds to pay 1,203,200 kronor ($155,000) in dismissal compensation to Ericsson, a measure that, although seldom if ever implemented, is actually allowed under Swedish employment law.
Lennart Eriksson comments: “I expected that following the court’s verdict, the Board of Migration would respond in accordance with democratic precepts. I expected it to respond in a manner that the general public would regard as fair and above board. I see instead that the Swedish Board of Migration is prepared to spend any amount of taxpayers’ money to prevent itself from losing further face by reinstating me as required by the court’s verdict.”
The Swedish Board of Migration’s new strategy will cost Swedish taxpayers about 1.5 million Swedish kronor including legal fees. This money would have been sufficient to pay for six new asylum assessors for one entire year, during which period they would have been able to process at least 700 asylum applications. The Board’s operations in Gothenburg are several thousand asylum application cases in arrears owing to managerial inefficiency. The decision to use public money to pay off an efficient employee rather than reinstate him as required by the court verdict therefore seems even more incongruous.
This situation is brought into even sharper focus by the fact that the person brought in to replace Lennart Eriksson following his unlawful dismissal has herself received a remarkably poor rating in her job. So much so that she has voluntarily left her position, previously Lennart Eriksson’s position, which is now accordingly vacant – but which the Swedish Board of Migration will not fill with Eriksson, the person most competent to do the job, while at the same time saving a lot of public money.
Eriksson’s manager, Eugène Palmér, stated in court that he appointed managers by “gut feeling”. His gut feeling justifying Eriksson’s dismissal on grounds of “unsuitability” was notably inaccurate because Eriksson has consistently received top ratings for the way he has done his job, and equally inaccurate regarding his replacement who declared herself incapable of filling Eriksson’s position and voluntarily gave up the post.
Eugène Palmér also went on record in court as claiming that Lennart Eriksson refused to obey orders. He claimed that this disobedience was in line with the behaviour of a figure of great historical significance that Eriksson admired, WW2 General George Patton. Palmér claimed that he knew that Eriksson’s behaviour was modelled on that of Patton, and that he also knew that Patton had a history of disobeying his superiors because he “once saw a Hollywood movie in which this was mentioned.”
At no time has the Swedish Board of Migration appealed the verdict of the court. This would seem to indicate that the Board does not take issue with the findings in the case, but that it merely opts to use public funds to get rid of all employees who do not conform to the private political beliefs of its top managers.
The Swedish public are asking how it is possible to have faith in a publicly funded authority which demands that court verdicts be implemented for asylum cases it presents to court, but which fails to observe court verdicts when it finds itself in the dock. What is more, there are commentators and analysts in the Swedish press who have drawn parallels to Kafkaesque black comedy and Soviet-era hounding of dissidents who fail to toe the official party line.
Lennart Eriksson can be contacted for comment on firstname.lastname@example.org, phone +46 702 672 333.