Merger creates Confederation of Swedish Enterprise

In late March 2001, two long-standing Swedish employers' and industrial organisations - the Swedish Employers' Confederation and the Federation of Swedish Industries - ceased to exist as they merged to create the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise. The new central business organisation represents some 46,000 firms in 52 member associations.

On 29 March 2001, the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) was formed from a merger of the Swedish Employers' Confederation (Svenska Arbetsgivareföreningen, SAF) and the Federation of Swedish Industries (Industriförbundet). Göran Tunhammar, the former managing director of SAF, was elected as the new organisation's first director general, while the former head of Volvo, Sören Gyll, was elected chair of the board.

The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise aims to be "the natural main organisation for the entire private sector". It seeks to develop into a more forceful organisation that can, for example, strengthen its position with regard to the European Union and in international bodies like the World Trade Organisation (WTO). "The new organisation will encompass expertise, personnel, experience and capital from SAF and the Federation of Swedish Industries, with the aim of becoming an organisation that is cohesive, focused, strong and effective for the entire Swedish business sector", in the words of the new organisation's first press releases.

The stated overall goals of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise are "to create the best possible conditions for companies and business - to create the world's best business climate in Sweden. In a broad sense, to work for the best interests of society as a whole, with the long-term ambition of helping Sweden to once again hold a top position in the international prosperity league. In turn, these overall goals contain - and require -a number of subgoals, such as reduced taxation, improved education and research, internationalisation, changed legislation and rules, an efficient infrastructure, changed attitudes towards entrepreneurs and an open society in its broadest sense"

The management of the new confederation says that it is proud that it has not been necessary to make any of the 300 former employees of SAF and 63 former employees of the Federation of Swedish Industries redundant because of the merger. However, all 84 employees who are at least 58 years of age in 2001 have been offered early retirement pensions providing 75% of their salary until they reach the age of 65. Most of the employees concerned have accepted this offer. Further, a service company has been created to take over previous internal functions such as data support, finance and wage administration, with the employees formerly performing these functions transferred to the new company.

The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise has four main functions: cooperation; negotiations; expertise and communication; and regional activities. Bargaining over national sectoral collective agreements will be carried out as before at the level of member associations. There are 52 sectoral employers' associations affiliated to the confederation, with a total of 46,000 member companies, both large and small. The central organisation and the member associations are regarded as self-standing and independent of each other.

SAF was founded in 1902 and for many years negotiated central intersectoral collective agreements with the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (Landsorganisationen, LO) as its main counterpart. In 1990, SAF decided to withdraw from central pay bargaining and pass responsibility in this area to its affiliates. The reason for the withdrawal, implemented in 1991, was mainly the employers' wish to make pay setting more tailored to each business sector.

The Federation of Swedish Industries started life in 1910 as a lobby organisation for Swedish industry. It had no bargaining functions but was an important policy-maker and opinion forum, above all for export-oriented industries. A great part of the organisation's practical functions, such as advising member companies on labour law and economic matters, became increasingly similar to the functions of SAF, and the merger has brought such duplication to an end.

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