LENGTHY HOLIDAY IN SWEDEN BECOMING A THING OF THE PAST

LENGTHY HOLIDAY IN SWEDEN BECOMING A THING OF THE PAST

Swedish companies, which once greeted Scandinavia's brief summer by shutting up shop, are changing their ways to meet the demands of export customers.

Plants traditionally closed for up to five weeks for an industrial holiday beginning in July, but Swedish-based multinationals say those days are becoming a thing of the past."At Ericsson, no factories will be closed this year," said Lars Wiklund, vice president for human resources at the telecommunications giant.

Companies at one time negotiated with unions the dates when plants would be closed, Mr. Wiklund said, but the trend to keep plants running at reduced capacity, as Ericsson does, has gained strength in the past three years.

"It's even accepted by the unions now," Mr. Wiklund added.

"Since we are so international these days, we need to have most departments running their operations 12 months a year," said Staffan Ternby, spokesman at pharmaceuticals company Astra.

Over the past 10 years, Astra has staggered office workers' holidays so all departments are open year round, if only at 20 percent capacity, Mr. Ternby said.

Companies often carry out routine maintenance during the closure period.

Volvo Truck plans to build up capacity at its Tuve assembly plant near Gothenburg during its summer closure period, prolonged this year to three weeks from last year's two.

"During these three weeks we will install new tools. Next year we will be back again to two weeks off," said Stefan Lorentzson, director of public relations at Volvo Truck.

Volvo shortened its summer closure period to meet sales, and could lengthen it again if demand slipped.

"We have to have a very flexible system," Mr. Lorentzson said, adding that he saw worldwide demand for Volvo trucks rising.

At Volvo Car, however, closing for fewer weeks this year will put its production schedules in line with others around Europe.

For the first time this year Volvo Car's Torslanda plant will close for only two weeks instead of four.

The group will begin production of next year's models before the holiday period, rather than waiting until after the break as in the past.

"This is to be in sync with the rest of Europe," said Christina Fjellman, information manager at Volvo Car.

The plant would operate at half capacity for two weeks before and two after the summer shutdown, Ms. Fjellman said.

Not only do customers benefit, but employees welcome the change as well, Electrolux spokesman Folke Hammarlind said.

Although white-collar workers have always planned their own vacations, factory workers were forced to take their annual holidays when the plant was

closed.

Now the option of dividing the five week holiday, a right of each Swedish worker, into shorter periods is common practice.

"Many people appreciate the possibility of having split vacations. All this was impossible a few years ago," Mr. Hammarlind said.