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Structure des organisations du travail Suédois

Structure des organisations du travail Suédois

René Doucet

Volume : 17-3 (1962)


Structure and Functionning of the Swedish Labour Market Organizations

To day in Sweden, the labor market is characterized by a mutual understanding in the field of labor relations and by a durable balance of power between the competing groups.

But in order to achieve such a result, 30 years of struggles, sometimes acrimonious, have been necessary.

As early as in 1880, there were some labor unions and a few federations of unions. But, in 1898, appeared a national and central organization, The General Labor Confederation of Sweden, called LO. The claims of the workers then became more aggressive.

The employers retaliated with dismissals and, in 1902, they organized the Confederation of Sweden Employers, S.A.F., to face up the workers. Soon appeared a policy of constraint which resulted in many strikes and lockouts.

About 1930, this policy of constraint had not brought about any valuable result and the time had come for négociation and collective bargaining.

The two groups, workers and employers, are strongly organized.

In Sweden, 98% of the salaried workers are organized in two groups: the blue collars or manual workers and the white collars or non manual workers. The blue collar workers are almost all members of the LO while the non manual workers spread among three organizations, TCD, SR and SACO.

LO is a union of federations or national unions based on democratic principles. The local union (there are over 9,000) is the basic unit of LO. It may represent the workers of a single enterprise or these. There are also local councils grouping many local unions. They are in charge of publicity and propaganda.

The 44 national unions of LO are to-day chiefly organized on an industrial basis rather than on a trade basis, as was the case in the first years of the movement, a structure that often brought rivalry between unions.

There also are cartels between national unions when they have common interests.

LO is constituted bodies and its constitution is based on the representative system. The supreme executive power is in the hands of the Congress which discusses the great problems of the labor market and establishes leading policies. The Congress meets every 5 years and is composed of 300 delegates elected by the National unions. The Representative Assembly, which meets twice a year, decides the wage policy to follow up and settle the internal administrative problems; it is composed of 125 members. The Bureau is the administrative agency of LO; it meets every week and is composed of 13 members. Seven departments assist the Bureau in its works: Economic Research, Legal Affairs, Education, Propaganda, Information, Women Comity and Enterprise Comity.

On the side of the Industry, the employers are represented by a very strong organization: The Confederation of Sweden Employers, SAF, which groups 43 affiliated employers' associations. It possesses 4 decision making agencies: The General Assembly that once a year decides how to conduct the yearly exercice; the Trustees who are simply a kind of administrative board which takes decision on the current affairs, and finally the Executive Council. The SAF has also many directing committees acting under the secretary's office and the general manager: Negociations, Studies, Information, Public relations, Finances and Intendant; furthermore the SAF has two experts: one for the Medical matters and the other for International relations.

We have then two powerful organizations facing each other. In order to collaborate and also to avoid governmental controls, they have willingly concluded agreements and set up representative bodies for the enforcement of these agreements: the Committee of the Labor Market which conducts researchs on the problems related to this field; the Council of the Labor Market which solves the conflicts on dismissals and personnel discharges; the Joint Committee on workers' protection; the Council on Professionnal Education; the Enterprise Committee which helps the creation of bodies at the enterprise level; the Council of Labor Research and, finally, the Women Committee of the labor market.

So the governmental action is quite unusual in the labor relations of Sweden; it mainly exists in three fields: workers' protection, legal aspect of negociations and collective bargaining, conciliation and public mediation.

In conclusion, the structure and action of these two bodies are tending to centralism, but allowance is made toward some decentralization of conflicts in the hands of specialists, a characteristic which explain much of the success characterizing the Swedish system in industrial relations. However, in Sweden collective freedom has been definitely preferred to individual freedom. This means power and efficiency of the representative organizations and at the same time, peace in the labor field.