For you as an employee

What is a industrial action?

Industrial actions are the pressures that trade unions and their members or employers can exert on the other party to achieve their desired demands in negotiations. Common industrial actions from the trade unions' side are strike, blockade, boycott, mass layoff, and sympathy actions. Strike is the most common action from the trade unions' side and means that employees simply refuse to work until the employer has accepted the demands made. Blockade is similar to strike and means that the union prevents certain work tasks at the workplace, for example, they may stop overtime work, new hires, or specific duties. Boycott involves the union urging the public not to invest in goods or services from the boycotted party. Mass layoff is as it sounds and means that a large number of employees resign at the same time, which often creates significant problems for employers who no longer have any workforce. Sympathy actions consist of actions taken by members of another trade union than the one directly concerned and often involve others involved in the business, such as suppliers.

Employers can also take industrial actions to achieve their demands, and this usually consists of a lockout where the employer simply locks out the employees from the workplace so they cannot work and therefore do not receive any wages. Employers are not allowed to withhold wages as an industrial action.

When can industrial actions be taken?

According to Swedish law, industrial actions cannot be taken when there is a collective agreement in place that is valid. Then, as a general rule, there is an obligation to maintain peace, and the parties must adhere to the existing collective agreement. When a collective agreement has expired or if there is no collective agreement, industrial actions may be used. In addition, for the actions to be legal, they must be decided by the board of the organization or another decision-making body within the organization. Actions decided by a local club or department or individual employer are normally illegal. This also means that as an individual employee, you cannot decide on industrial actions, even if you do so in agreement with other employees at your workplace.

Sympathy actions can be taken to support another union or organization, but such actions cannot be taken if the other union is prevented from taking actions due to an obligation to maintain peace.

Do I have to participate in the strike?

If a trade union of which you are a member calls for a strike at your workplace, you must participate in the strike as a member and not go to work or perform work tasks. As a member, you must participate in all industrial actions that your trade union has called you to according to the trade union's bylaws. It is not illegal not to participate in the strike, but you may be expelled from your trade union.

If you are a member of another trade union than the one behind the industrial actions, you should not participate in the strike as long as your trade union remains neutral in the conflict. If your trade union takes sympathy actions in various forms, you should participate in them. If you are not a member of any trade union, you do not have to strike. You can go to work as usual. However, you have the right to participate in the strike if you want.

What happens to my wages if I go on strike?

Since you are not working, you will not receive any wages. You do not have the right to demand pay for the time you are not at work. If you are a member of the trade union that initiates the strike, the trade union will pay strike compensation to you, which is intended to compensate for your loss of income. If you are not a member of the trade union but still go on strike, you will not receive any compensation.

In the event of a lockout by the employer, it is also the trade union that pays compensation to you as an employer. If you are unorganized, you will not receive any compensation, and it can therefore be costly for you.

For employers

When can trade unions take industrial actions against us as an employer?

When there is a collective agreement in place, there is an obligation to maintain peace, and trade unions cannot take any industrial actions as long as the agreement is in effect. When the agreement has expired and you as an employer cannot agree on new terms in the new collective agreement with the trade union, the trade union can take industrial actions to achieve their demands. It is also possible for the trade union to take industrial actions if you are not bound by any collective agreement at all, in order for you to sign an agreement.

Employees in your company can also take sympathy industrial actions if the trade union announces this as a way to put additional pressure on another employer.

In order for industrial actions to be legal, the trade union must also notify the employer and the Mediation Institute at least seven working days in advance that industrial actions are to be taken.

Can we as an employer take industrial actions?

Yes, employers can take a so-called lockout, which means that the employer locks out the employees from the workplace so they cannot perform their work. Since they do not perform any work, no wages will be paid, and it becomes a pressure tactic. This is also an action that must be notified to the other party and the Mediation Institute at least 7 working days in advance.

In summary

  • Industrial actions are pressure tactics used by trade unions and employers to push through their demands in negotiations, including strike, blockade, boycott, mass dismissal, and lockout.
  • These actions are not allowed when a valid collective agreement is in place, but can be used when the agreement has expired or is lacking, provided that the decision is made by the organization's board or equivalent body.
  • Members of a trade union must participate in industrial actions decided by the union, while members of other trade unions or non-members are not obligated to participate but can choose to do so if they wish.
  • Workers on strike do not receive salary from the employer but receive strike pay from their trade union.
  • Industrial actions must be notified at least seven work days in advance to the other party and the Mediation Institute to be legal.

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