This is how the Swedish labour market works

A guide to the role of trade unions, collective agreements, freedom of association and who does what on the Swedish labour market.

The Right of Association in Sweden

The right of association that is in force in Sweden gives you the right to freely join a trade union of your choice. An employer cannot say that you are not allowed to join a trade union. It is a violation against the freedom of association if anyone, in any way, tries to prevent you from joining a trade union. You do not have to reply if your employer asks you if you intend to join a trade union or not.

This is the Swedish model

The collective agreements form the basis of “the Swedish Model” in which the conditions in each sector are determined by the trade unions and the employer organisations. The government does not interfere, though it may set the boundaries through labour laws, as the trade union and employer organisations are responsible. The model combines flexibility for companies with security and influence for employees.

The level of trade union membership in Sweden is relatively high – about 70 % – and membership is often encouraged by employers. This gives Swedish trade unions a strong position, which is a crucial aspect of the Swedish model.

Collective agreements

A collective agreement is a voluntary agreement between employers and employees on your rights at the workplace. The collective agreement regulates pay increases every year, overtime pay, supplementary insurance schemes, the right to exert influence and so on. If you are employed at a workplace with a collective agreement then you can be safe in the knowledge that there is a good agreement for you that covers your pay, form of employment, working hours, holidays, period of notice and much more.

Our collective agreements mean that you don’t have to negotiate important conditions and benefits all on your own.

As a member of Unionen, you will simply get more out of working life – whether you have a job, are moving to a new job, are between jobs or when you want to study.

A floor, not a ceiling

The collective agreement provides you and your colleagues with solid, basic security at work, but you or your local trade union branch can of course negotiate even better conditions and higher pay.

Unionen in the workplace

The workplace is Unionen’s most important arena. It is here that we learn about actual working conditions and find ideas for changes and improvements. We work together and negotiate with employers to drive through these changes and improvements.

Who does what on the labour market

The Swedish labour market is divided between a number of parties with different responsibilities.

A-kassa (Unemployment insurance fund)

Unemployment insurance funds and trade unions are different types of organisations. There are several different unemployment insurance funds and in the case of Unionen’s A-kassa, it has nothing to do with the trade union Unionen. By being a member of an unemployment benefit fund, you get paid a certain amount of money for an interim period of time until you find a new job.

Read more about Unionen’s A-kassa 

Försäkringskassan (Swedish Social Insurance Agency)

Försäkringskassan decides on and pays out a large part of the benefits available under the national social insurance system. This includes, among other, sickness benefit and parental benefit.

Arbetsförmedlingen (Swedish Public Employment Service)

The main task of Arbetsförmedlingen is to facilitate contact between job seekers and employers and give support to those who are most detached from the labour market. When looking for work, you must register with Arbetsförmedlingen in order to be eligible for unemployment benefit from A-kassan

Employers’ Organisations

If you are an employer in need of support and/or advice concerning a work related legal issue or the interpretation of a contract or agreement, we recommend that you contact an employers’ organisation. Unionen is a labour organisation and as such, can only provide employers with very limited support and advice.

Other Trade Unions

Unionen is a central organisation for civil servants in the private sector. We recommend workers across all sectors including civil servants in the state sector and county council/local government sector to become members of other trade unions. If you are unsure of whether or not you should be part of Unionen, you are of course welcome to call us and we will point you in the right direction.

Here are some examples of other trade unions:

Vision – Civil servants in the county council or municipal sector

Fackförbundet ST (Union of Civil Servants) – Civil servants in the state sector

Kommunal – Workers in the municipal sector

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