If you are a foreign contractor on the Swedish construction market, the trade unions are important parties that you must collaborate with. A large proportion of Swedish workers are members of a trade union and there are collective agreements at most workplaces.
Trade unions and federations
Trade unions bring together employees in a particular industry sector so as to collectively negotiate on wages and working conditions. Collectively, via the trade union, the employees become a stronger party than if they had negotiated individually. The trade unions also help individual employees or personnel groups with advice, legal support and in case of a dispute with the employer.
There are local trade unions at many workplaces and these are linked to larger federations. The federations are in turn linked to central organisations. There are trade unions in practically all industry sectors. Since there are many trade unions and federations, the structure of the organisations can differ.
Membership of a trade union is voluntary. The trade union movement has a strong tradition in Sweden and a large proportion of the country's employees are trade union members.
An employers' organisation is an organisation in which employers come together to promote their interests towards the employees. Through employers' organisations, employers can receive help and support in various issues that affect the labour market.
The largest employers' organisations in Sweden are the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions and the Swedish Agency for Government Employers. The largest employers' organisation in the construction sector is the Swedish Construction Federation.
Collective agreements and collaboration
There are collective agreements at most workplaces. A collective agreement is a written agreement between the trade union and the employer which regulates wages, employment conditions and other conditions at the workplace.
In recent years, trade unions and employers have attempted to find forms that allow more direct influence from each employee at the workplace and in day-to-day work. This is called collaboration. A collective agreement between employer and trade union is necessary for collaboration to be used at the workplace.
The employer and employees shall also collaborate in achieving a good work environment. There must be a health and safety officer at all workplaces where at least five people regularly work. It is the trade unions who appoint health and safety officers.