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The Swedish model

The Swedish labour market is regulated both by laws, which provide the minimum level for the working conditions, and by collective agreements that supplement with more and better conditions. The trade unions and the employers jointly agree on the content of the collective agreement.

Advantages and challenges  with the Swedish model

One advantage by regulating working conditions through collective agreements is that we can impact our working conditions based on the specific needs we have in our workplace. If we compare it to regulation based on laws the collective agreement is more flexible and easier to change. We have agreed upon a number of principles about how trade unions and the company cooperate when it comes to our working conditions. The most important aspect is that we consider cooperation a key to success for Scania.

A prerequisite for the Swedish model to work is a high number of members, meaning that many employees in the workplace are members of a trade union. If there aren’t enough members, the employee representatives cannot be considered representing the employees and thereby lose both its legitimacy and power to negotiate. One may argue that a high number of members is for the trade union, what high election participation is for democracy. Without it, it loses its legitimacy.

By becoming a member you contribute to our means to negotiate better conditions for all of us. And if you choose to become a trustee you’re able to work with topics that are important for you and your colleagues.

The story behind the Swedish model

Before the 1930’s there was chaos on the Swedish labour market. Employees struggled with bad employment conditions and lack of protective legislation as well as agreements about leave and salary. Strikes were common at the time.

To get rid of these problems the Landsorganisation (LO) in Sweden and the Swedish Employers association (what today is known as Svenskt Näringsliv) decided to meet. The meeting took place in Saltsjöbaden in 1938 and the agreement reached then is called Saltsjöbadsavtalet  .

A lot of the content of the agreement still applies today and Saltsjöbadsavtalet is considered the basis for the Swedish model.


There are three aspects in particular that are special with Saltsjöbadsavtalet .

  1. It regulates the right to strike. In short it means that the agreement defines when employees are allowed to strike and when peace prevails.
  2. It says that it is the parties on the labour market that define the conditions, meaning the employee associations (trade unions) and the employer associations. The agreements that the parties agree upon are what we call collective agreements.
  3. Lastly, the agreement establishes the right to organise, both for the employer and the employees. For the employers the organisering  happens through employer alliances, e.g. Svenskt Näringsliv, and for the employee by the right to organise and be a member of a trade union.
Published: 2020-03-03

Updated: 2020-03-03

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