The role of the trade unions in the labour market
In Sweden, the trade union movement plays a unique and important role in regulating labour market conditions. Win/win collective agreements are negotiated and signed by both employees' and employers' organisations.
Naturvetarna and other 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, avoiding strict, rigid legislation. In Sweden, we believe that both employees and employers benefit from this system. Read more about collective agreements.
Meanwhile, as long as a collective agreement is in place, the trade unions commit themselves not to strike, which is called a duty of non-action. In exchange, trade unions can influence conditions for employees. This is the basis of what is known as the Swedish Model.
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.
How unions are organised in Sweden
At the central level, all the trade unions 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 different 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.
Influence in 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 Saco associations.