Sweden rapidly returned to normal today after last night's settlement of its worst labor dispute and first nationwide strike in 70 years.
More than a million workers who had been locked out or on strike returned to their jobs, putting radio and television back on the air, reopening factories that had been shut for a week and allowing planes to fly again after being grounded for more than two weeks.
No one was exuberant about the new national wage packages for government and private industry workers for the next year, however. The settlement increases wages by about 7 percent -- less than Sweden's expected double digit inflation this year.
Gunnar Nilsson, chairman of the Swedish Labor Federation, said he agreed to the new compromise offer by a government mediator because it increases the wages of the lowest paid workers by a higher amount. A spokesman for the Swedish Employers Confederation complained that it will again raise labor costs in Sweden above those of competing exporting nations.
The employes' federation, which had taken an unusually tough bargaining position this year and locked out more employes than went on strike, first refused yesterday to accept the government mediator's compromise. It relented after its leaders were summoned by Prime Minister Thorbjorn Falldin for a private meeting, at which he strongly urged them to give in. Falldin also dropped a government proposal to freeze prices for the rest of the year.
The settlement ends a serious crisis for Falldin's right-of-center coalition government, which holds a single-vote majority in parliament. The opposition Social Democrats, who are supported by the labor unions, had called on the government to resign and then introduced a no-confidence motion in parliament.
They withdrew the motion, however, when it became clear that the crisis had only pulled the three frequently quarreling parties in the coalition closer together. Opinion polls also showed that a majority of Swedes, including union members, were opposed to the national work stoppage and tended to blame it on union leaders and the Social Democrats.
Now Falldin faces the task of trying to hold down inflation and reduce dangerously large deficits in both the government's budget and the country's balance of payments. Government spending cuts and the reduction of expensive subsidies for the ailing shipbuilding industry are being considered.
Government, business and labor leaders also have been talking about the possible necessity of limiting the further growth of Sweden's generous welfare state. The effect of inflation on relatively small negotiated wage increases in recent years, including yesterday's settlement, already has stopped the previously steady increase in the Swedish worker's standard of living.
To make this more palatable, the government has agreed to a scheme that will skim off some of the profits of Swedish industry and put them into investment funds with which workers' groups can buy shares in businesses. Employers finally agreed to the scheme because of the need for more investment in Swedish industry.
The performance of the Swedish economy during the next year will test these measures and determine whether this year's breakdown of the Swedes' model national wage bargaining system sets a new pattern of labor-management conflict for the future.