“Your Boss Is Forced By Law To Make You Go On Vacation”: Person Shares Facts About Union Benefits In Sweden

Have you ever felt cheated at work? Were you fired for no reason, or your work arrangement suddenly changed without your agreement? These are only a couple of reasons why workers choose to unionize in labor unions. And a labor union can be pretty much any organization of workers striving to improve anything at their workplace: from pay to safety standards.

Reddit user u/Ok_advice from Sweden shares how many days off they get thanks to unions, surprising readers online.

More info: Reddit

It’s only natural to want to improve your working conditions and unions are an efficient, direct way to fight for your labor rights

Image credits: Efrem Efre (not the actual image)

Poster shares the benefits they get from being in a union, including vacation days paid up to 100.8% of what they usually get per month

Image credits: u/Ok-advice

Union regulations have allowed the poster to have a total of 135 days off every year, with even more waiting in the future

The Original Poster (OP) breaks down the days off they get, thanks to unions: 25 days off paid vacation every year, with 100.5% to 100.8% of regular pay during them. If you do not use your vacation days, you get to collect them for up to 5 years.

In Sweden, if you still haven’t used your days off after 5 years, your employer is obligated by law to make you take them, or else they will pay fines or be sued by unions. Additionally, the poster says they get 30 days more because of their union, with another week added after 40 and 50 years. All of this has allowed them to have a whopping 135 days off work per year.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a labor union “is a group of two or more employees who join together to advance common interests such as wages, benefits, schedules, and other employment terms and conditions.” These groups of workers can then negotiate higher wages, health insurance, paid vacations, and many other benefits.

Labor unions can take many forms. Craft unions take in people with the same skill, regardless of their level. General unions may organize workers from different fields, while industry unions will take in people from specific industries, for example, The National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers in Britain.

Unions can then go on to form national and international confederations, consolidating more power into the hands of the workers and giving them more bargaining power.

Reading the post, perhaps you became interested in why unions in Sweden seem so powerful. OP begins explaining this by saying that Sweden has had a very high literacy rate since the 1600-1700s, which allowed workers to stay educated and up to date. When strikes started happening in factories, more people joined in solidarity, which led to them unionizing and the start of a political party that stayed in power for a significant amount of time. This was the Social Democrat party, which spent a significant amount of time empowering and coordinating unions.

Image credits: Michel Block (not the actual image)

Union participation is especially prevalent in Nordic countries, with 50.4 to 90.7% of the population belonging to unions, according to 2019 data. This was achieved with the help of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions formed in 1897, known as Landsorganisasjonen or LO for short. Even though unions have been affected by deindustrialization and outsourcing of work, they are still important in defending labor rights of workers, no matter whether they work blue or white collar jobs. If you’re interested in the history of the labor movement in the Nordic countries, you can find more info here.

Another comment by u/Eat_the_Rich1789 corrected OP, who had called Sweden “socialist,” explaining that Nordic countries operate on the Tripartisan model. This system means that unions, employers’ associations, and the government discuss issues collectively, seeing the other parties as partners. Tripartite systems operate in many European countries. Finland has included the tripartite model in its labor laws, further empowering unions and workers.

All of this may have gotten you interested in forming or joining a union. If you are from the States, you could look at the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) website. A good step to begin would be to locate a union representative of your work, which can also be done at the AFL-CIO website. Then you could get in touch with that union’s organizer to find out all about their work.

If you are in Europe, you should visit the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) website, which is one of the biggest labor organizations worldwide. They comprise 93 unions in 41 countries, and you will find the organization that you could contact closest to you on their map.

If all else fails, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) website represents the workers of 163 countries, and by browsing it, you can be sure to find more information about unions in your country.

Image credits: Leeloo Thefirst (not the actual image)

For this article, Bored Panda contacted the post’s author, u/Ok_advice, for more context about Sweden’s system. When asked for clarification about what industry OP works in, they replied that they work full-time for a nonprofit organization. Apparently, regardless of the company you are working at, it’s likely that it uses a collective agreement provided by a union that has been tailored to the specific industry. Even if you aren’t unionized, the collective agreement’s benefits will still apply to you in that company.

When asked if OP has heard about any cases of union busting, they mentioned that if workers want to unionize in a company, the owners cannot do anything to stop it lawfully. This calls to mind the fact that in 2020, Amazon was attempting to gain a foothold in the Swedish market. People have gone as far as to say that “Sweden’s companies and workers might have to adapt — not the tech giant.” According to a more recent article, Amazon uses third-party workers, which is likely a loophole found by Amazon.

Finally, when asked whether the prevalence of unions is bad for business in Sweden, they mention that it cuts the busywork and shortens workdays, instead of weighing down businesses. Additionally, OP mentions, employers also reap the benefits of their employees being rested and happy.

The post collected more than 10 thousand upvotes and almost 900 comments. People in the comments praised the work of unions, at the same time showing their surprise at how powerful unions in Sweden are. A lot of people also despaired at the lack of unions where they work, especially American commenters.

In the comments, many people wanted to find out more about Sweden’s system, while others made fun of their own countries, where unions aren’t so prevalent

Image credits: CoWomen (not the actual image)

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