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The trade union in Sweden - How it works

In Sweden, the trade unions plays a unique and important role in regulating your working conditions. Collective agreements are negotiated by both trade unions and employers' organisations that complement legislation. 

Naturvetarna and other trade unions, negotiate favourable collective agreements with employers' organisations that are aimed at strengthening labour market conditions.

Because these two parties decide together on working conditions, then the conditions can be adapted to different business areas and industries, and are more flexible than legislation.

In Sweden, we believe that both employees and employers benefit from this system of negotiating working conditions. Read more about Naturvetarna.

Meanwhile, as long as a collective agreement is in place, the trade unions commit themselves not to strike, which is called a peace obligation. In exchange, trade unions can influence conditions for employees. This is the basis of what is known as the Swedish Model.

Unlike how it works in many other countries, employers generally do not perceive trade union membership to be negative in Sweden, but rather the opposite.

In order for trade unions like Naturvetarna to have sufficient legitimacy to negotiate good working conditions for scientists, it is important they have as many members as possible.


Industrial action

When unions and employers do not agree on matters such as salaries, working hours, work environment or other conditions, the weapon of industrial action is the last resort in trying to reach agreement. Industrial action can take various forms, including strikes, lockouts or blockades.

All members at the company or the workplace to which the notice of industrial action applies are covered by the action, regardless of their form of employment. This means that categories such as fixed-term employees or temporary staff are also covered.

Members receive full compensation for salary loss from the first day in the event of a strike or lockout.


Who is covered by a collective agreement?

Collective agreements apply to everyone in a workplace where the employer has chosen to have a collective agreement.

  • In the central government sector and municipalities and regions, employees are always covered by collective agreements.
  • In the private sector, it is up to an employer to choose whether they should have a collective agreement for their employees.

Read more about collective agreements here. 

If you are not covered by a collective agreement, your individual employment contract is more important


Influence at the workplace

At workplaces in which the employer is party to a collective agreement, members may form local associations working to ensure the employer complies with the terms of the relevant agreement. They also represent members in matters such as reorganisation, salary review and working environment.

Out in the workplaces, it is primarily the elected union representatives who influence working environment and conditions. Consequently, it is vital that many members become involved in the local association. Through dialogue with the employer, they do an important job in creating a better workplace. The more members involved in the trade union's work, the greater the opportunities for the local association to influence the situation.

The local associations may consist of members of Naturvetarna only or they may also organise members from other trade unions for academics.

  • At private companies there are Akademikerföreningar (members of trade unions for academics). 
  • At universities and authorities there are Saco-S associations (members of trade unions for academics)
  • At municipalities and regional healthcare facilities there are Naturvetarföreningar (members of Naturvetarna)

How unions are organised in Sweden

All trade unions in Sweden are organised into three confederations:

  • LO – Blue collar employees' central organisation
  • TCO – White collar employees' central organisation
  • Saco – Academics' central organisation (of which Naturvetarna is one of 23 members)

There are some differences in approach to the some issues within these three confederations. Common to Saco and their members is that knowledge and education form an obvious prerequisite for welfare, and that personal investments in academic education should pay off for the individual.

Naturvetarna and the other trade unions negotiate central collective agreements. This is usually carried out by the trade unions with the highest number of members in the relevant professional area, but it may also be carried out by negotiation delegations consisting of several trade unions working together.

Trade unions such as Naturvetarna also provide individual support, for example if a member is in dispute with his/her employer. They also offer services and tools aimed at strengthening members in their careers. Read more about our membership benefits. 

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