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Key Facts

Collective Bargaining Coverage 81%
Proportion of Employees in Unions 20%
Principal Level of Collective Bargaining

industry (also some company)

Workplace Representation

works council

Board-level Representation

yes: state-owned and private companies

Company Board Structure

dualistic or monistic (choice)

Sources: see individual country sections; where a range of figures has been quoted, the lower number has been taken

What does SE mean?

From when on is it possible to set up an SE?

How can a European Company (SE) be established?

What is the special negotiating body (SNB)?

Who sits on the special negotiating body (SNB)?

What is the “representative body” (RB)?

Workplace Representation

Employee representation varies across Europe, combining both representation through local union bodies and through works councils or similar structures elected by all employees. In the 28 EU states plus Norway, there are four states where the main representation is through works councils with no statutory provision for unions at the workplace; eight where representation is essentially through the unions; another 12 where it is a mixture of the two; and a further five where unions were the sole channel, but legislation now offers additional options. In many countries, national legislation implementing the EU’s information and consultation directive has complicated the picture. One common feature of most states is that unions play a central role.


Workplace Representation

Workplace representation for employees in Sweden is through the local union at the workplace. There is no other channel. Legislation requires the employer to inform and negotiate with the unions at the workplace before making major changes, and many of the practical arrangements for doing so, which elsewhere in Europe are fixed by law, are left in Sweden to local negotiations.

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Collective Bargaining

The proportion of employees covered by collective bargaining in the 28 EU states plus Norway varies from well over 90% to 10%. The countries at the top of the table either have high levels of union membership, as in the Nordic countries, or have legal structures which ensure that collective agreements have a wide coverage. In the countries at the bottom of the table, company level bargaining dominates. In some countries, such as Belgium, Italy or Sweden, there are links between different levels of bargaining but in others, like Luxembourg or Cyprus, various levels simply coexist. Overall the trend seems to be towards greater decentralisation and the crisis has accelerated this.