How policy can strengthen (multi-employer) collective bargaining in Europe: Sweden

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Abstract

With the European minimum wage directive adopted in 2022, all European countries will be obliged to protect and promote collective bargaining. Where collective bargaining coverage is below 80 per cent, they will be obliged to draw up and implement national action plans in 2025 to increase coverage. This will be the first time in history for so many European countries to be legally obliged to think about, consider and plan concrete actions and measures to strengthen trade unions and employers’ organisations to negotiate agreements for workers.

Based on reports from 20 national experts, a new report launched by UNI Europa today, aims to support trade unions in Europe in their efforts to make the most of these national action plans by providing a detailed overview of a range of ideas on how to boost collective bargaining coverage. This report does not claim to be exhaustive or definitive, nor does it reflect the position of UNI Europa, the experts or UNI Europa affiliates. It is simply a list of ideas that might (or might not) be desirable or effective in different industrial relations contexts.
The ideas are structured around five main areas of intervention:

First, there can be no collective bargaining without strong trade unions, and there is much that public policy can do to enable and encourage union organising. First, obstacles to trade unionism could be removed and workers protected from anti-union practices. They could also encourage union membership through tax exemptions, give unions access to workers, facilities and resources for union representation, or provide direct capacity-building support to (sectoral) unions.
In addition to trade unions, employers also have a role to play in collective bargaining. It’s important to have willing and able employers, so policies can address the frequent lack of a mandate for employers’ organisations to negotiate. Alternatively, policies could make some business benefits (e.g. tax credits, training, access to subsidised employment) conditional on collective bargaining. Or why not consider compulsory membership of employers’ organisations with a bargaining mandate?

Once the actors are in place, the collective bargaining process is important. Policy can focus on ensuring the availability of accurate and complete data and information, and emphasise good faith bargaining rules. Another way is to establish a bargaining infrastructure, with financial and organisational support for bargaining and support for mediation. More coercive measures include compulsory bargaining systems, compulsory mediation, arbitration and the setting of sectoral standards through government regulation in the event of bargaining failure. Last but not least, there can be no bargaining without the right to strike, and in some contexts reform of strike regulations is overdue.

Next, policy can promote collective bargaining by ensuring the effectiveness of collective agreements as regulatory instruments. This could be done by clarifying the legal status and requirements for sectoral agreements, establishing the principle of preference and a clear hierarchy of norms. Extension policies are identified as a very strong driver for increasing the coverage of collective agreements. Suggestions include limiting administrative and political discretion, making extensions automatic and considering qualitative criteria. Other measures include restricting the use of opt-out clauses, creating voluntary charters in regions without clear legislation on multi-employer agreements, and using public procurement to incentivise sectoral bargaining.

Finally, there is the role of culture. Policymakers can ensure sufficient information and monitoring of collective bargaining, include social dialogue in education programmes and launch public campaigns on the benefits and value of collective bargaining.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTime for action! How policy can strengthen (multi-employer) collective bargaining in Europe
EditorsStan De Spiegelaere
Place of PublicationBrussels
PublisherUNI Europa – The European Services Workers Union
Pages94-101
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2024 Apr 3

Publication series

NameUNI Europa Report 2024-01
PublisherUNI Europa

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Work Sciences

Free keywords

  • collective bargaining
  • industrial relation
  • trade union
  • employer
  • EU
  • Sweden
  • UNI Europa
  • minimum wage
  • collective agreement coverage
  • kollektivavtal
  • EU directive on minimum wages

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