Pensioner wins challenge to collective agreement

A pensioner who was challenging the central collective agreement on pensions for municipal workers won his case in the Stockholm District Court on 29 December 1997. The court ruled that his trade union did not have the authority to agree on inferior pension terms for its members. The former employer has appealed against the judgment.

In 1992, the Municipal Workers' Union (Kommunalarbetareförbundet) and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities (Kommunförbundet) agreed to change the collective agreement on pensions then in force, with the effect that the pensioners did not receive the benefits they had counted on (SE9709136F). A former sheet-metal worker, Knut Törling, sued his former employer, the City of Stockholm, claiming in all SEK 7,794, plus interest on overdue payment. Mr Törling argued that pension rights are the workers' acquired rights which a trade union cannot dispose of without a special authorisation from each member concerned, and he had never given such an authorisation to the Municipal Workers' Union. Therefore the City of Stockholm could not invoke the new collective agreement against him.

The City on the other hand invoked a modification clause which had been included in the pension agreement for years. A crucial point in the case was how this clause should be interpreted.

On 29 December 1997 the District Court of Stockholm ruled in Mr Törling's favour. A clause in a collective agreement authorising the parties to make changes that worsen the "personal" (enskilda) rights of an employee must be very clear in order to bind him or her, the Court decided. In this case it is not clear enough.

The City of Stockholm has appealed to the Labour Court.

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