New agreement on cooperation and bargaining procedure in Swedish industry

An impartial chair will help trade unions and employers to complete future negotiations without industrial action and with a "balanced" outcome. That is the expectation behind a new agreement on cooperation and bargaining procedure in Swedish industry, concluded on 18 March 1997.

On 18 March 1997, eight trade unions and 12 employers' organisations in industry concluded an agreement on cooperation and the regulation of pay. Its aim is to promote growth, profitability and competitiveness in industry. As such, claim the parties, it will provide the necessary prerequisite for a reduction of unemployment and form the basis for improvements in pay and good working conditions.

The agreement consists of two parts. First the parties describe the conditions under which Swedish industry is working and what they see as the vital interests in the industry. From these mutual starting-points, leading representatives for the parties will discuss at least twice a year in a special Industry Committee matters that are important both to companies and their employees. This Committee in turn will appoint an Economic Council consisting of four independent economists, who will offer their opinion and draw up recommendations in economic matters when the parties ask their advice.

The other part of the agreement lays down procedures for the actual wage negotiations that will take place at sector level as before, except that the negotiations will be supervised by the Industry Committee. The idea is that the trade union and the employers' organisation will be forced to keep up the pace in the negotiations with the intention that they should reach a new agreement before the old one expired. However, that remains an objective, and it will not be possible to impose an agreement on the parties.

The agreement provides that the trade union and the employers' organisation of the sector in question open negotiations by submitting their claims three months before the old agreement runs out. After that, additional claims may be presented only if it had not been possible to present them before. One month before the agreement runs out an impartial chair, appointed by the Industry Committee, shall enter into the negotiations and, within the limits of the procedural agreement, do what he or she deems necessary to conclude the negotiations in due time. For example, the chair can ask the Economic Council for its opinion, set out his or her own proposals and postpone measures of industrial action for 14 days.If nevertheless a strike breaks out, all retroactive claims are lost. In addition the Industry Committee can prescribe that the action be temporarily suspended, if the negotiations would benefit from that.

The procedural agreement comes into force on 1 October 1997, which means that it does not apply to negotiations which are currently underway in the timber and the food industries.

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