Headlines 2018

Who loves union agreements?


Lars Calmfors, IFN and chair of AER, presented the report “How do collective agreements work?”

Union membership is going down due to changed behavior among workers rather than structural changes on the labor market, explains the Swedish Labour Policy Council (AER) in a new report. "The rate of unionization has sunk with 16 percent", said Lars Calmfors, IFN and chair of AER. The council points to Germany as a warning example. In Germany the unionization has fallen with almost 30 percent during the last three decades. It shows that change can come rapidly [in Sweden too], said Calmfors.

AER argues that a lower unionization will diminish the unions’ possibility to put preasure on firms to sign collective agreements. “Therefore, in the long run, it is important for the survival of the system of collective agreements, that the agreements work for the companies. "The council has carried out a survey on how the companies perceive collective agreements. "Generally the companies have a remarkably positive view of collective agreements", said Lars Calmfors when the report was presented.

60 percent of the firms would want to sign an agreement even if the unions’ possibilities to press for an agreement by way of strikes etcetera would  diminish. Only 15 percent said they would not. Bigger companies are more positive to collective agreements than smaller companies.

Lars Calmfors explained that the collective agreements are more suited to larger companies than SMEs. The assesment of collective agreements vary greatly between business sectors. The most negative view is found in the construction sector. The only point where construction companies have a favorable view on collective agreements is that they “give the company a good reputation.” Within health and social care, information and communication, law, economics, science and technique, the companies technically view the effect of collective agreements neither negative nor positive except that the agreements “give the company a good reputation”.


2018-02-15 AER Per Skedinger.jpgPer Skedinger IFN and commissioner of AER, explained how numberless agreements worked.


Companies with numberless agreements have the most favorable views of collective agreements.  The council explains that this “shows that numberless agreements have a greater wage range and that workforce shortage impact the wages more than otherwise”.

"Numberless agreements give 2 to 3 percent higher hourly wage but not a higher monthly payment as the employees reduce worked hours, said Per Skedinger, IFN and board member of AER, when he presented parts of the report. He explained that companies with numberless agreements are more content than other companies.

The council argues that there should be strong driving forces for the parties to the labor market to make the agreements more attractive for the firms: “One idea is to have more of local salary rates and greater flexibility in regards to employment conditions regulated in the agreement.”


2018-02-15 AER publik.jpgQuite a large audience showed up for the seminar in Stockholm where  AER presented the report “How does collective agreements work?”.


The report was commented on by three experts:

"This is a very interesting report and a valued contribution to research", said Lena Granqvist, head of public policy at Saco, the Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations.

"This report, like all other reports from AER, includes something original. It is always fun to read these reports", said Åsa Olli Segendorf, department manager at the Riksbank

"A very good report, there are very few things in this that I do not agree with", said Charlotta Stern, deputy CEO at Ratio.

The seminar ended with a panel discussion. In this participated Lars Calmfors, IFN and AER, Tobias Baudin, union chairman of Kommunal, Anna-Karin Hatt, CEO Almega, Karin Johansson, CEO Svensk Handel (Swedish Trade Federation), and Martin Linder, union chairman of  the Union.


2018-02-15 AER panel.jpgFrom the left, Karin Johansson, Martin Linder, Lars Calmfors, Anna-Karin Hatt and Tobias Baudin.

Read the report (in Swedish)

Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Grevgatan 34 - 2 fl, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden | Phone: +46-(0)8-665 45 00 | info@ifn.se