Employers Associations and Trade Unions in Sweden

1. Brief Description of Employees’ and Employers’ Organizations

There are approx. 110 different trade unions and employer’s organizations on the Swedish labour market. The parties have agreed on more than 650 collective bargaining agreements. Almost one out of ten employers in Sweden are members of an employers’ organization and approx. 70 percent of the employees in Sweden are members of a trade union.

The employer is, through the membership in an employers’ organization, bound by the collective bargaining agreements applicable for that organization. The employer is obliged to apply the terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreement also to employees that are not members of a trade union.

2. Rights and Importance of Trade Unions

The high level of unionization on the labour market is the foundation to the co-determination between employees and trade unions on the one hand, and employers and employers’ organizations on the other hand. The individual employee and employer are granted the right to join and become members of associations and engage in activities through these without hindrance from the other side. The Co-Determination Act contains the general provisions governing the relationship between the employers and the unions in such areas as association, information, negotiations, industrial actions and labour stability obligations.

According to the Co-Determination Act, an employer has certain consultation and information obligations towards the trade unions. The act also, to the benefit of the trade unions, contains certain interpretation regulations. Generally, these rules give the trade union the right to interpret the collective bargaining agreement until the matter has been finally decided by court, and, hence, are important in the case of disputes.

Once a collective bargaining agreement has been entered into and is in effect an obligation to refrain from industrial action comes into effect and prohibits strikes or lockouts. Breaking the peace obligation will incur liability for damages on the breaching party.

3. Types of Representation

Normally, the local trade unions elect one or more representatives to represent the employees at a workplace. Employees who are trade union representatives may not be prevented from carrying out union work during working hours, may not be discriminated against due to their union activities and are entitled to a reasonable leave of absence to carry out their union activities.

4. Tasks and Obligations of Representatives

The local trade union representative shall manage questions relating to labour at the specific workplace, normally issues of salary, work environment, reorganizations, etc. are covered. In order to conduct union work, the union representative is entitled to time off. Further, a union representative enjoys an extended protection in a redundancy situation.

5. Employees’ Representation in Management

The Board Representation Act entitles employees of private companies bound by collective bargaining agreements employing at least 25 workers to appoint two ordinary and two deputy employee representatives to the board of directors.

6. Other Types of Employee Representative Bodies

In a workplace where at least five employees are regularly employed, one or more safety representatives should be appointed in accordance with the Working Environment Act. If the employer is bound by a collective bargaining agreement, the union appoints the safety representatives. Otherwise, they are appointed by the employees.

For more information on these articles or any other issues involving labour and employment matters in Sweden, please contact Robert Stromberg, Partner at Cederquist ( at
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