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Act on the Position of Trade Union Representatives in the Workplace

Many of the rights granted to employees under labour laws in fact devolve upon the local union organisation bound by a collective bargaining agreement, viz. normally the trade union branch at the company. The basic protection for union activities is provided by the provisions in the Co-determination Act concerning the right of association. The right of association applies generally to all employees.

The Act on the Position of Trade Union Representatives at the Workplace regulates only the position of trade union representatives. The law applies to employees who have been appointed by the local union organisations bound by collective bargaining agreements to represent the employees at their workplace in union activities which affect their relations with the employer. It should in this context be noted that the concept of union activities is extremely wide-ranging. The local union branch is in principle free to decide how many representatives are to be appointed at a workplace.

Union representatives may not be prevented from performing their union work and may not be given less beneficial terms and conditions of employment on account of their union activities. Needless to say, the representatives may not be discriminated against.

A union representative is entitled to such leave as is necessary for the performance of his/her union duties. This leave may not, however, be more extensive than is reasonable in view of the conditions of the workplace and may not be taken at a time which may seriously impede the performance of normal work. How much leave and when leave may be taken shall be decided after discussions with the employer. A union representative is entitled to unchanged salary and other benefits during leave for union activities relating to his/her own workplace.

The union normally has an interpretive precedence in case of a dispute between the employer and the union concerning the application or interpretation of the act, i.e. the union’s view shall prevail until the dispute has been resolved.

Leave from ordinary work for trade union representatives:

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The Board Representation (Private Sector Employees) Act

The employees in a limited liability company, economic association and certain other types of companies with at least 25 employees are entitled to appoint two members and two deputy members to the board of directors of the company. Furthermore, in companies with at least 1,000 employees and which are engaged in several different industries, the employees may appoint three board members and three deputy board members. However, a prerequisite for the right to appoint board members and deputies is that the company is bound by at least one collective bargaining agreement.

The employee representatives should preferably be appointed from amongst the employees at the company or, for parent companies, from amongst the employees of the group.

The employee representatives have the same rights and obligations as the other board members. Furthermore, the employee deputy board members have an increased right to participate at the board meetings, as compared to the deputy board members appointed by the general meeting of the company. The employee representatives may not participate in dealing with issues that relate to the collective bargaining agreement, industrial actions or other issues where a union organisation at the workplace has a material interest that may conflict with the interests of the company.

European Works Councils

Since 1996 Sweden has had a European Works Council Act based on the European Council Directive 94145/EC on the establishment of a European works council or a procedure in community-scale undertakings and groups of undertakings for the purpose of informing and consulting employees.

Community undertakings covered by the Act must have at least 1000 employees in EEA countries and at least 150 employees in each of at least two EEA countries. The Act, contains complicated rules for the establishing of a works council or some other model for employee influence.