Menu

Javascript is not activated in your browser. This website needs javascript activated to work properly.
You are here

Trade Unions and Collective Agreements in a Changing World

Author:
  • Anders Kjellberg
Editor:
  • Annette Thörnquist
  • Åsa-Karin Engstrand
Publishing year: 2011
Language: English
Pages: 47-100
Volume: Work & Society. Vol. 70
Document type: Book chapter
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing Group

Abstract english

In the chapter, “Trade Unions and Collective Agreements in a

Changing World”, Anders Kjellberg explains why Swedish union

density still is very high from an international perspective and why it fell dramatically in the years 2007 and 2008, particularly among Young and foreign-born employees, both containing a high share of precarious workers. Also, a number of long-term factors pressing union density downwards and militating against union activities are discussed. Kjellberg also presents data on density of employers’ organisations and coverage of collective agreements. Furthermore, he deals with strategies of employers’ associations and the development of power relations between unions and employers. Attention is also paid to the growing internal rifts within each camp between manufacturing and the private services.



In the chapter, "Trade Unions and Collective Agreements in a Changing World", it is explained why Swedish union density still is very high from an international perspective and why it fell dramatically in the years 2007 and 2008, particularly among young and foreign-born employees, both containing a high share of precarious workers. Also data on density of employers’ organisations and coverage of collective agreements are presented. Thirdly the chapter deals with strategies of employers’ associations and the development of power relations between unions and employers. Attention is also paid to the growing internal rifts within each camp between manufacturing and the private services. The high Swedish union density is explained with the presence and design of state-supported union unemployment funds, industrial relations distinguished by a combination of centralisation and decentralisation, the preference of collective agreements to state regulation, the high density of employers’ associations and the existence of separate unions for blue-collar and white-collar workers. The chapter also accounts for the falling union density by referring to both long-term and short-term developments. Among the former are the changing composition of the workforce (including outsourcing from manufacturing industry and public sector to firms in private services), declining coverage of union workplace organisations and increased share of fixed-term jobs. As the main explanation for the sharp fall in 2007 and 2008, the decision of the centre-right government to make it much more costly to be affiliated to both a trade union and a union unemployment fund from January 2007 is pointed out. As a result, union density declined fastest among the categories of workers that include a high share of precarious workers, more precisely among young workers, blue-collar workers in the private service sector and foreign-born workers. Since the 1990s Swedish employers have opted for a far-reaching decentralisation of collective bargaining. With inspiration from Germany, the Association of Engineering Employers has repeatedly demanded the introduction of opening clauses to improve competiveness by increased flexibility and local adaptability. The historical 2009 Crisis Agreement is discussed from such a perspective. The chapter also emphasises that the increasingly frequent attitude to weigh costs and benefits of union membership got a large immediate impact when the cost suddenly was raised but not the utility of union membership. However, Swedish unions are still strong enough to withstand the employers’ aspirations on completely decentralised industrial relations and they will probably be able to do so in the foreseeable future as well. This is particularly important for employees with a weak individual bargaining position as precarious workers. This is said with reservation, as new, unexpected developments might weaken unions and increase the share of precarious workers in the workforce. As was evident already in the 2010 bargaining round, the tendency of firms to replace regular personnel with workers from temporary agencies emerged as a problem given high priority by blue-collar unions. From a union perspective, this highlights the importance of improving the conditions of precarious workers to make such actions less attractive for employers.

Keywords

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
  • collective agreement
  • Crisis Agreement
  • collective bargaining
  • Ghent system
  • union density
  • otrygga arbetsvillkor
  • precarious employment
  • sociology
  • sociologi
  • employers' associations
  • Industry Agreement
  • unemployment fund
  • trade union
  • Sweden
  • immigrants
  • blue-collar workers
  • white-collar workers
  • segregation

Other

Published
  • Union Density in a Global Perspective
  • ISBN: 978-90-5201-730-3
Anders Kjellberg
E-mail: anders [dot] kjellberg [at] soc [dot] lu [dot] se

Professor

Sociology

+46 46 222 88 47

337

31

Research projects

Labour Migration, Trade Unions and Employers (FAS/Forte). Anders Kjellberg and Olle Frödin.

Union Density in a Global Perspective Anders Kjellberg

News and News Archive

anders kjellberg's more detailed website in swedish

Google Scholar Citations

Department of Sociology
Lund University
Visiting address: Sandgatan 11, House G, Lund
Postal address: Box 114 , SE-221 00 LUND, SWEDEN
Telephone: Student Office +46 46-222 88 44, Lund University Switchboard +46 46-222 00 00

Faculty of Social Sciences