Kiruna LKAB Politician Storyteller Union Worker

Storyteller #24 – the work rotation vs. the local community

Last year we met a local politician in Kiruna. One theme in our conversation was how different work rotation schedules related to the local community, since workers who work in Kiruna but don’t live in Kiruna also don’t pay taxes in the municipality. The politician said:

When we discussed about there being a lot of people commuting [from outside the municipality to work in the mine], they have these work rotations schedules where they work seven days and are free seven days. There has been a discussion about whether or not IF Metall [the workers’ union] perhaps should make LK[AB] stop this. But, even those who live in Kiruna want these schedules. It’s very much a matter of… Before they [many commuters] went home to Tornedalen… They really want this. Work seven days and then spend seven days in their cabins. But the union doesn’t dare to push the issue since it works against their members.

Iron Kiruna LKAB Luleå Management Media Politician

Annual meeting

Yesterday, Johan attended LKAB:s annual meeting in Luleå, Sweden. It was an interesting, maybe even odd, experience (see a picture gallery further down).

A lot of suits, difficult to know how many attended, maybe 50 people. I feel rather alone in my hoodie (or bunny-hug as they say in Saskatchewan). Besides top management and board members of LKAB, the Swedish Minister of Industry, Mikael Damberg, was there, our national superstar Charlotte Kalla (cross-country skier, sponsored by LKAB), all the relevant media (state television and radio, local newspapers), the Mayor of Kiruna, the former Governor of Norrbotten etc.

Except for a few of those present, we’re there to watch and listen. This is a ceremony, a staged performance. LKAB has 700 000 stocks and all of them are owned by the Swedish state. The annual meeting, that is, is a dialogue between two persons, the chairman of the board (also elected as the chairman of the meeting) and a young man sent by the state. This creates an almost comical situation. Even the chairman couldn’t help smile once in a while. The chairman says: “Can the meeting approve of the agenda?” The young man from the state says: “Yes”. He’s the state, the meeting, the people. A company owned by us the people, channeled through this one person. It’s a very apparent case of the Leviathan (as in the state, and also as in all LKAB:s mines) being represented and translated by individuals (as in Alex Golub’s Leviathans at the gold mine, 2014).

Three keynotes are delivered, one by the chairman, one by the new CEO, and one by the Minister of Industry. With a special eye to Kiruna, our case, the chairman mentions the process of moving parts of Kiruna and about the company’s “extended role” (I interpret it as the company is not only a mining company, but also city planner and a construction company). The CEO also mentions Kiruna, but it has more to do with troubles with the works (one “bärring” had to be replaced) and with some of the shafts. This led to the value of the assets in Kiruna being written off with 7 billion Swedish crowns. It is also mentioned that given the troubles of getting the stone up from the Kiruna mine, the open pit iron ore mines in Svappavaara (about 60 km from Kiruna) will feed the Kiruna mine with goods, thereby being explicitly drawn into the labor process of the Kiruna mine.

Once the official meeting is over, there is no invitation for questions, but the head of communication interviews Charlotte Kalla on stage and two awards are handed out, one to a women floorball team in Kiruna/Pajala and one to an artist from Koskullskulle. They get 50000 Swedish crowns each. Then there are hors-d’œuvre and mingle time. I get to meet some old acquaintances.

Photos by Johan Sandström:

Iron Kiruna LKAB Music Nature Politician

Blast (gotta move)

“Blast (gotta move)” is a song about the anxiety of knowing what you have but not what you get, of trying to act collectively but faced with separate negotiations, with not knowing whether or not to afford what the market-conditions dictate, with up-rooting children if leaving Kiruna town is the only viable solution, about having to leave the beautiful scenery appearing outside the kitchen window, about the state withdrawing, leaving movement of a great part of a small town to the Company and to local politicians.

This story we have come across during interviews and the “analytical mood” of the song stems from Ferdinand Tönnies, a sociologist who at the end of 19th century studied the current transition of society. In his view, the tightly knitted community (where people stay together despite differences) is dying out, being replaced by the large scale society (in which people stay separate despite what connects them). Ferdinand Tönnies concepts Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft are classic but still important and useful today. Kiruna, it could be argued, is in the intersection of Gemeinschaft and Gesellshaft, but this time around the transformation occurring seems to have different traits, dynamics and stakes. We suspect that organizing rocks, the labour process and changing power relations, play an essential part in the ongoing struggle between “the forces” of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, and for the struggle of the citizens of Kiruna town. The detective work continues, but click on the audiofile below to listen to the song (you might have to reload the page in order for the file to show):

Blast (gotta move)

Music, lyrics, instruments and vocals: Tommy Jensen


Blasts in the past
Blasts in the future
Below tunnels are expanding
Aftershocks are widening

The city is moving
Were will I go?
Blast – gotta move

Every time they assess my
Value go down
We want to act together
They negotiate us separately

The city is moving
Were will I go?
Blast – gotta move

It takes more than one for a society
It takes mutual togetherness
Together yet apart
Separated by powers that be
Large scale society are here
Community we’re are you?

Staying in Kiruna?
A flat for a flat
Market in-between
Lonely I must compete

The city is moving
Were will I go?
Blast – gotta move

From: Lossavara and Kebnekaise
Chimneys and windmills
To: Death Valley
Trees and hills

The city is moving
Were will I go?
Blast – gotta move
Silently angry
Drinking helps
The state withdraws
Dumping all at The Company’s feet

Documentary Kiruna LKAB Mikael J Moviemaking Politician Supplier Sweden

Meet supplier, Mikael Jonasson (part 3)

Documentary Kiruna LKAB Mikael J Moviemaking Politician Sweden

Meet supplier, Mikael Jonasson (part 2)

Iron LKAB Politician Supplier

Load up north

Load up north is an annual fair. What makes it a bit unique, the organizer states, is that the fair also targets recruitment, not only the exhibition of machines and tools.

We’re in Boden, Johan’s hometown, so he stops by the fair on August 27 and 28. He meets with a supplier we know very well by now, listens to keynotes arranged by Boden municipality, such as the ones by Peter Erkki and Tage Lundin from LKAB, Anders Sundström (chairman of the board for Swedbank and Kooperativa Förbundet), Inger Edlund Pedersen from Norrbotten Chamber of Commerce, Hans Wahlqvist from Mobilaris (providing solutions for how to track people and vehicles in the mine), and Johan Torgerstad from PON CAT (as in Caterpillar).

Peter Erkki, head of planning, South LKAB

The mining industry is the perhaps most salient industry during the fair, at least when judging from the equipment exhibited and how the ‘talk of the fair’ goes. Overall, there’s optimism regarding the future of the mining industry in the county, although the iron ore price is low and will most likely remain on this level for a while. This is how a company such as LKAB motivates the need to lower the cost for each tonne of iron ore. Peter Erkki talks about investments in the logistic chain to accomodate more large-scale transports by rail and boat. Head of purchasing, Tage Lundin, talks about the re-negotiating of contracts with suppliers and the establishment of a new supplier manual, all in the context of the need to cut costs for LKAB. Ears are tense in the audience.

On recruitment, there are several private staffing agencies as well as a local high school present at the fair (the keynote by Torgerstad addresses PON CAT’s cooperation with the high school), profiling how their operations addresses skills needed in the mining industry (the most common skill has to do with driving large vehicles). One of the largest suppliers to LKAB is BDX and this company even shares a showcase with the staffing agency Adecco in the indoor section of the fair. It becomes clear that these agencies are important to our project, seemingly playing an important part in the labor process in the Kiruna mine.

The perhaps most surprising showcase at the fair is the one shared by the public libraries in the county of Norrbotten. In the fair magazine, a librarian is quoted saying: “The idea behind having a showcase at a machine fair is to inform and show some of the library’s range in order to arouse interest and promote reading, particularly among men. [—] We hope to inspire more men to become reading role models.”

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Art Iron Kiruna LKAB Politician

Mineful art?

On the second floor of Kiruna’s city hall, there’s an exhibition by Kiruna’s association for art (Kiruna Konstgille). The exhibition consists of 100 t-shirts, designed by a variety of local artists (see the video further down, not by us!). The shirts predominantly address the changes that Kiruna is going through and some are relevant to the Kiruna mine and the labour process, or at least we think so. The second shirt below, for example, ranks different groups of people from one to eleven. First place: people who work for LKAB. Sixth place: girls [not women; it would’ve read “kvinnor” and not “tjejer”] who work for LKAB. Although we like to think that we can ‘encode’ some of these shirts, many of them also puzzle us. Isn’t art wonderful! One thing is clear, however: the art association is one part of the labour process periphery that we have to close in on.

Nomad city
Movement in Kirunavaara (the mountain where the Kiruna mine is)
Housing shortage
Ranking different groups in Kiruna

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