Swedish Launderers Wary of Unfair Competition

Posted May 17, 2016 at 12:43 pm

When prisons use inmate labor to pursue private contracts, it’s an issue that impacts the textile services industry in a number of countries, including the United States and, most recently, Sweden. With the goal of rehabilitating prisoners through work, governments in various countries deploy convict labor for jobs such as laundry processing. More often than not, these efforts encroach on the private sector.

Fredrik Christensson, a member of Parliament for the Center Party, recently wrote to a government minister to ask whether this activity constituted “unhealthy competition from the public sector.”

He cited recent contracts in the Dalsland area that could endanger private-sector job opportunities, particularly in light of the extensive laundry activities conducted by the Institution Skogome, a prison near Gothenburg.  “Lately the prison has won several important contracts in the region, which has a direct negative impact on the labor market,” Christensson wrote in an April 21 query to Enterprise and Innovation Minister Mikael Damberg.

In his response, submitted about two weeks later, the minister cited Sweden’s Competition Act of 2010 as necessary to ensure a balance between the needs of the public and private sectors. “It is important to constantly monitor and improve the conditions for effective competition,” Damberg wrote on May 4. He added that a “Competition Authority” was established through this law to oversee its application, and it can go to court to prevent “distortive procedures when selling goods or services in the market.”

In this case, however, Damberg said he doesn’t see a need to initiate such an investigation.  “The provisions on public sales operations include difficult trade-offs between different interests,” he wrote. “They have been applied since 2010. The government closely monitors the practices that keep emerging, but currently sees no reason to initiate a new review of Competition Act provisions on public sales operations.” Click here for details.