Brief Description of Employees’ and Employers’ Associations
The “Swedish model” of industrial relations is characterised by a high degree of organisation even though trade union density is currently falling. There are approx. 110 different trade unions and employer’s organisations 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’ organisation and approx. 70 percent of the employees in Sweden are members of a trade union. The employer is, through the membership in an employers’ organisation, bound by the collective bargaining agreements applicable for that organisation. 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.
Rights and Importance of Trade Unions
The high level of unionisation on the labour market is the foundation to the co-determination between employees and trade unions on the one hand, and employers and employers’ organisations 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. 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.
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. Employees of companies that have at least 1,000 employees and are engaged in different industries are entitled to appoint three ordinary and three deputy employee representatives to the board of directors. However, the number of employee representatives on the board may not be higher than the number of other board representatives. If possible, the employee representatives should be elected from the employees in the company (or the company group).
Other Types of Employee Representative Bodies
Sweden has implemented the Works Council Directive and the Directive establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community. 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.