Last Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2017, 13:52 GMT

2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Sweden

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Sweden, 9 June 2010, available at: [accessed 15 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 9,200,000
Capital: Stockholm
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The final judgement in the Laval case led to the sentencing of the Swedish unions to pay damages and legal costs. The government has attempted to limit free collective bargaining.

Trade union rights in law

Both public and private sector workers enjoy freedom of association, collective bargaining and the right to strike, and the law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference. However, a number of recent government regulations have had a negative effect on trade union rights. In 2003 a law was passed that interfered with existing branch-level collective agreements covering early retirement schemes, and prohibited any such agreements in the future. In 2007, following the judgement on the Laval case, new provisions were introduced that restricted the right of unions to take collective action and to bargain collectively to defend the rights of foreign workers posted in the country. Furthermore, when implementing the EU Services Directive in 2009, the government abandoned a provision that required foreign companies in Sweden to have a legal representative in the country to whom the trade unions could deliver their requests for collective bargaining.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Settlement of industrial disputes: Industrial disputes are normally settled through negotiations between the parties concerned at the local or national level. The Labour Court, which includes representatives proposed by the social partners, deals with legal disputes on the interpretation of existing collective agreements where negotiations fail, as well as cases involving allegations of anti-union discrimination. In cases of conflicts of interest (for instance in the event of collective bargaining or strike action in support of a new collective agreement), a public National Mediation Office is available to assist the parties if they so wish.

Legislative implementation of the ECJ decision on the Laval case: The Swedish Labour Court delivered its final judgement in the Laval case on 2 December 2009, sentencing the Swedish union for construction workers and the national union for electricians to pay damages and legal costs of SEK 2.5 million (approx. EUR 250,000). This was a remarkable ruling, not least since the same Court five years ago pronounced, in an interim decision, the industrial action as lawful according to the Swedish legislation. The Swedish Labour Court's final judgement on damage compensation, which surprisingly referred to the existing EU legislation, constitutes a violation of the ILO principles on freedom of association.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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