Sveriges Ingenjörer

Industrial action and strikes

What happens if there is a conflict between an employer and a trade union? Engineers of Sweden answers some frequently asked questions.

The Swedish model entails unions and employers working together to decide what rules apply in the labour market and regulating these in collective agreements. It is a successful model that means that labour market conflicts are relatively rare in Sweden.

When the parties have signed a collective agreement, a duty of peace exists as long as the agreement is in force, which establishes calm and predictability for both employers and employees.

But when unions and employers do not agree on matters such as salaries, working hours, work environment or other conditions, the weapon of industrial action is the last resort in trying to reach agreement. Industrial action can take various forms, including strikes, lockouts or blockades.

When we negotiate for improved conditions for our members and when employers do not take our suggestions on strategic issues into account, industrial action is an option we can use to increase pressure.

Camilla Frankelius
Head of Negotiations at Engineers of Sweden

Checklist, before and during industrial action

  • Make sure that your local Academics Association/industrial action committee has your private phone number and email address so that they can reach you.
  • Check that you are registered at the correct workplace in Engineers of Sweden’s membership register to ensure that you receive strike pay.
  • You do not have to answer if your employer asks whether you are a union member or which union you are a member of.
  • From the day a strike breaks out, you are not allowed to work, either at your office or elsewhere.
  • You must be available to the local industrial action committee for trade union work during the conflict, such as handing out leaflets, writing information, picketing etc.
  • You must be reachable by phone and email so that you can be notified when the strike is over.
  • The employer does not pay you any salary when you are on strike, but you receive full compensation from Engineers of Sweden.
  • When the strike is over, you return to work as normal.

Industrial action

A notice of industrial action from Engineers of Sweden specifies which companies (legal entities) and workplaces (locations) are covered. All members within the relevant collective agreement areas are obliged to participate in the action.

No, the industrial action applies to all work, including working from home, by computer, by telephone or similar.

If you work during a strike, you risk being excluded from the union and your employer risks committing a breach of industrial action rules and thus being liable for damages. The statutes of Engineers of Sweden state that members are to be loyal to the union and to respect the decisions made by the union, including on matters regarding industrial action. If a member who has been called out on strike chooses not to participate, it is very likely that they will be expelled from the union for disloyalty. Before any such decision is made, the member concerned must be given the opportunity to comment.

The workplace where you are permanently employed applies. It is not permitted to move personnel in order to counter the effects of industrial action, but otherwise the employer's right to manage and allocate work tasks applies as usual.

All members at the company or the workplace to which the notice of industrial action applies are covered by the action, regardless of their form of employment. This means that categories such as fixed-term employees or temporary staff are also covered.

The same rules regarding the right to participate in industrial action and the right to strike pay apply to foreign members with work permits as to employees who are Swedish citizens. Participation in trade union industrial action does not affect the Swedish Migration Agency's assessment of the right to be granted a work permit or the possibility of extending a permit.

Bear in mind that after the industrial action, workplace relations should return to normal.

Engineers of Sweden decides which members may be exempted from participating in industrial action. The CEO, CEO's assistant and HR Manager are normally exempt, as are members who are on holiday leave, on parental leave, on leave of absence, participating in or leading training, posted abroad or have union representative assignments on the company board. You are covered by the industrial action whenever the exceptions are not applied. For any period that you are exempted from participation in the industrial action, you receive your salary as usual.

See above regarding exemptions from participating in industrial action.

Normally not. The purpose of a notice of industrial action is to bring about an agreement with the other party, preferably before the action breaks out. If industrial action breaks out, the measures need to be effective in order to put pressure on the other party to change its position in the negotiations. Dispensations are primarily in the employer's interest, to reduce the impact of the industrial action, and it is the employer who must apply to Engineers of Sweden for any dispensation.

If you fall ill during a strike or lockout, your sick pay period does not begin until the first day you would have worked if you are still sick when the industrial action ends. If you are already on sick leave when the strike or lockout begins, your sick pay period continues from the first day you were absent from work due to illness and for the following 13 calendar days. If you are not entitled to sick pay due to the strike, you are entitled to strike pay.

Industrial action always means that it is forbidden to engage new consultants and contractors to replace a member who is participating in the action and that it is not permitted to expand the ongoing assignments of existing consultants and contractors.

Engineers of Sweden will notify you via e-mail, through our website and through the media when the industrial action is over and when you are to return to work.

Strike pay

Members receive full compensation for salary loss from the first day in the event of a strike or lockout.

Loss of income that members can receive compensation for is fixed salary, fixed salary supplements and variable salary components. The value of variable salary components is the average amount over the last 12-month period of commission, bonus pay, etc. The value of benefits, e.g. free use of a car that you have not been able to use during the industrial action, is also reimbursed. You can also receive compensation for income such as sick pay and parental benefit that has not been paid due to the industrial action.

No, strike pay is tax-free and is therefore paid out as a net amount that must correspond to the actual salary loss after tax calculated for the entire income year. We calculate the level of compensation on a standard basis, (the same for everyone), equivalent to a tax deduction of 30 percent.

You apply for strike pay using this form (in Swedish). If we are forced to give strike notice, we will inform you of how and when to apply for strike pay. Our aim is for you to receive strike pay before the employer makes the salary deduction.

If your application for membership has been received by the central office of Engineers of Sweden no later than the date that the strike breaks out, you will receive strike pay.

You can fill in a membership application here.

If the employer stops paying your salary/parental benefit as a result of industrial action, you can apply for compensation from the union to cover your loss of income.

The employer has no obligation to pay into your occupational pension during industrial action. This may mean that no provision is made for this. The general rule is "full compensation" for members participating in industrial action. Loss of pension premiums cannot be compensated for on a flat-rate basis when we pay out immediate compensation, however, as the loss of premium that may occur for some members will not be known until later.

All members covered by the strike are insured against accidents if anything happens during the time the strike is in progress and if they do not have their own private accident insurance. If you work as a picket or perform other work for the union during the strike, you are also insured.


No one is obliged to declare their union membership to their employer ahead of a possible conflict.

Information about trade union membership is also classed by GDPR as sensitive personal data with the same level of protection as, for example, health information in medical records. An employer is prohibited from processing sensitive personal data if it is not necessary in order for them to fulfil obligations and exercise specific rights within labour law or to pursue legal claims.

If you wish to leave the union, contact Engineers of Sweden’s membership services office to receive all the information you need about what it means to leave the union when there is a possibility of industrial action. Termination of membership must be confirmed in writing by filling in a form. Formally, you are bound by your membership until the end of the month in which you apply for withdrawal from the union.

General information about industrial action in the labour market

Although the parties in a negotiation always aim to reach agreement, there is the option of using industrial action as an absolute last resort. A prerequisite for the possibility to use industrial action is that there is no obligation to maintain peace between the parties. A duty of peace exists, for example, when the parties are bound by a valid collective agreement. The purpose of industrial action is to put pressure on the other party so that the negotiations can lead to the signing of a new collective agreement.

Decisions about industrial action and using the strike fund are made by the Association Board of Engineers of Sweden.

Engineers of Sweden can use industrial action in three different situations:

  1. In connection with collective bargaining negotiations.
  2. If Engineers of Sweden has members employed by a company that does not have a collective agreement, we can use industrial action to persuade the company to sign a collective agreement with us.
  3. If other trade unions request sympathy measures from us when they take industrial action.

Before initiating industrial action, the other party must be warned of the action. Notice of industrial action is a warning that industrial action will commence if the parties do not reach agreement. Notice must be submitted in writing to the other party at least seven working days in advance of the action. The written notice describes why the notice is being given and must also state who the conflict is aimed at, which members are affected, what measures will be taken and when they are to be implemented. A copy of the notice must also be submitted to the Swedish National Mediation Office (Medlingsinstitutet), which will appoint a mediator for the conflict.

Complete stoppage of work, or a strike, means that the members who are called out on strike must leave the workplace and their work for the duration of the conflict. This also applies to employees who work from home or on a client’s premises. Work equipment such as a mobile phone, laptop, company car (also known as a benefit car) are to be left at the workplace or stored in some other way agreed with each member’s immediate manager. Certain exceptions apply to elected union representatives.

A lockout is a form of industrial action used by employers. During a lockout, employees are excluded from the workplace and do not have the right to receive salary. Notice of a lockout must be given in advance in the same way as for other industrial action.

A sympathy measure is when another union takes industrial action in support of our strike or when we support another union's industrial action. An individual member may not decide to go on sympathy strike unilaterally. The union decides which companies and workplaces are to be called out on strike. If you have not been informed by Engineers of Sweden that you have been called out on strike, you are obliged to work.

Members of other Saco unions

Members of other Saco associations receive information and instructions from their union about what they are to do in the event of industrial action.

Senast uppdaterad 2023-03-09
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