Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Sweden

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 11 June 2009
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Sweden, 11 June 2009, available at: [accessed 18 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: 9,256,347
Capital: Stockholm
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Although trade union rights are protected by law, attempts are made by the government to interfere in the free collective bargaining process.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association: Both the Constitution and the 1976 Co-Determination Act entitle both public sector workers, including the armed forces and the police, and private sector workers to form and join independent unions of their choice, without prior authorisation or excessive requirements. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference. There is no registration requirement or minimum membership. There are no legal barriers preventing workers, including foreign workers, from joining a union.

The Employment Protection Act (LAS) also protects workers, including union members, against unfair dismissal.

Right to collective bargaining: The 1976 Co-Determination Act provides for collective bargaining. The law prohibits anti-union discrimination. The Labour Disputes Act (1974) provides for judicial procedures to be followed in disputes concerning collective bargaining agreements and other disputes relating to the relationship between employers and employees.

Right to strike: The Constitution guarantees the right to strike, stating that unions "shall be entitled to take industrial action unless otherwise provided in an act of law or under an agreement." The 1976 Co-Determination Act regulates collective actions. Public sector employees also enjoy the right to strike, subject to limitations in the collective agreements which protect the public's immediate health and security.

Parties must give seven working days' notice of a collective action. Mediators can be appointed with the consent of the parties or, in certain cases, by the National Mediation Office without consent. There is no injunction procedure, but the Mediation Office may order a party to postpone collective action for up to 14 days. The parties must cooperate with any mediator, or else are liable for fines.

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.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

ILO complaint on branch – level collective agreements: Based on a complaint (case 2171), the ILO has been requesting the Swedish government, since 2003, to amend the legislation it had introduced which interferes in existing branch-level collective agreements covering early-retirement schemes and prohibits any such agreements in the future. In 2008, the government made it clear that it had no intention of implementing the repeated recommendations made by the Governing Body of the ILO.

Legislative implementation of the ECJ decision on the Laval case: At the end of the year, the special committee set up to propose changes in the legislation due to the conclusions by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the so-called Laval case, presented its report. According to its proposals, the Swedish trade unions would no longer be allowed to request the application of standard collective agreements from EU companies providing services temporarily in Sweden with their own workforce. Such collective agreements could only require the application of minimum wages and their content would be restricted. If Parliament decides to adopt the proposed changes in legislation, the free collective bargaining rights of Swedish trade unions will be restricted and, as a result, foreign temporary workers will no longer enjoy equal treatment with domestic workers.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

Search Refworld