Trade Unions and Collective Agreements in a Changing World

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

Abstract

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.

Details

Authors
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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

Keywords

  • 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
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPrecarious Employment in Perspective. Old and New Challenges to Working Conditions in Sweden
EditorsAnnette Thörnquist, Åsa-Karin Engstrand
PublisherPeter Lang Publishing Group
Pages47-100
Number of pages54
VolumeWork & Society. Vol. 70
ISBN (Print)978-90-5201-730-3
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

Publication series

Name
VolumeWork & Society. Vol. 70

Bibliographic note

Anders Kjellbergs hemsida Mer information om boken här Innehåll kapitlet "Trade Unions and Collective Agreements in a Changing World": 1. Introduction, 2. Union Unemployment Funds, 3. Union Density and Business Cycle, 4. Decreasing Share of Employees in Public Sector and Expanding Private Services; 5. From an International Perspective, Small Variations in Union Density between Industries and Sectors in Sweden, 6. The Most Socially Segregated Trade Union Movement in the World, 7. Self-regulation Versus State Regulation, 8. The Strategic Role of Union Workplace Organisations for Membership Recruitment, 9. Density of Swedish Employers’ Associations Higher than Union Density, 10. One-sided British Decentralisation: Low Private Sector Union Density and Low Collective Bargaining Coverage, 11. Combined Centralisation and Decentralisation in Sweden, 12. Opening Clauses and Declining Density of Employers’ Associations Undermine the German Model, 13. Decentralisation by Opening Clauses and Legislation on Minimum Wages in Sweden?, 14. Widened Rift between Manufacturing and the Private Service Sector across the Labour Market Parties, 15. A Still Strongly Sex Segregated Union Structure, 16. "Vertical Disintegration" Militates against Union Activities, 17. Companies with No Collective Agreements, 18. Lean Work Organisation – Sparse Time for Union Activities, 19. Declining Union Density since the Mid-1990s, 20. More Expensive Fees for Unemployment Funds – Falling Union Density, 21. The Erosion of the Swedish Ghent System, 22. Trade Unions and Immigrants, 23. Trade Unions and Collective Agreements in a Changing World – Some Conclusions. Bokens innehåll: Annette Thörnquist/Åsa-Karin Engstrand: Introduction. Precarious Employment in Perspective - Christer Thörnqvist: The Most Powerful Industrial Relations in the World? Pros and Cons of the Swedish Collective Bargaining System in the Light of the Laval Conflict - Anders Kjellberg: Trade Unions and Collective Agreements in a Changing World - Annette Thörnquist: False Self-Employment. A Topical but Old Labour Market Problem - Catharina Calleman: Precarious Employment in Sweden? Care Work and Domestic Work in a Twilight Zone between Public Law and Private Law - Monica Andersson Bäck: Who Cares about the Carer? New Public Management in Sweden - the Case of Health Call Centres - Åsa-Karin Engstrand: Justifying Precarious Employment? The Struggle over Shop Opening Hours - Malin Junestav: Promoting Employment or Employability? The Move from Active Labour Market Policy to Workfare - Paulina de los Reyes: Structural Discrimination and Causalised Work. An Intersectional Approach to (un)Equal Conditions in Swedish Working Life - Ali Osman/Per Andersson: Precarious Accreditation? Inclusion of Immigrants in Precarious Labour Market Positions - Steve Jefferys: How Dark are the Clouds over Sweden? - Annette Thörnquist/Åsa-Karin Engstrand: To Conclude. Series Work & Society. Vol. 70 General Editor: Philippe Pochet Boken recenserades av Lars Ekstrand i Arbetsmarknad & Arbetsliv nr 4 2012 sid. 69-72.

Related research output

Anders Kjellberg, 2017 Mar 23, Festskrift till Ann Numhauser-Henning. Rönnmar, M. & Julén Votinius, J. (eds.). Lund: Juristförlaget i Lund, p. 357-383 27 p.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

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Related projects

Anders Kjellberg

2006/01/012011/12/31

Project: Research

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