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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: kollektivavtal

This Swedish word is very useful to know if you're job-searching or experiencing problems at work.

Swedish word of the day: kollektivavtal
It's important to ask about this at a job interview. Image: nito103/Depositphotos

Kollektivavtal can be broken down into two words: kollektiv (collective) + avtal (deal). The English language translation would be 'collective bargaining agreement', and this refers to a set of working conditions agreed between employers and union representatives.

You'll hear this word a lot in Sweden, where around 90 percent of employees are covered by a kollektivavtal.

A kollektivavtal will regulate wages, for example stipulating that all employees with a certain job title must receive a salary within a certain pay band, as well as holiday allowance, overtime pay, working hours, and other benefits. 

The agreement then applies to all employees at the company, even those who are not members of the union. However, it's possible to have clauses that only cover a certain category of employees; for example, it's relatively common for a kollektivavtal to include an extra week of holiday for workers aged over 40.

The big advantage of a kollektivavtal is that they often offer employees more favourable conditions than workplaces without these agreements. That's because some things are regulated by Swedish employment law; for example, the Annual Leave Act dictates that employees must receive no fewer than 25 days' holiday, and a kollektivavtal can offer more than this, but not less.

The opposing argument is that the kollektivavtal limits the ability of individual employees to negotiate. For example, if you've had a particularly successful year at work, you might go into your annual review hoping to argue the case for a significant pay rise, but if your workplace is governed by a kollektivavtal, this might just not be possible.

One of the main effects of the kollektivavtal is to regulate wage increases, to ensure that employees continue to get real wage increases.

However, negotiations between employers and unions do not always go completely smoothly, and when discussions about the kollektivavtal break down, strikes may be called.

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Examples

Har ni kollektivavtal?

Do you have a collective bargaining agreement? (An important question to ask at job interviews)

Ett kollektivavtal är faktiskt flera avtal som gäller lön, semester, pension med mera

A collective bargaining agreement is actually several agreements which apply to wages, holidays, pension and more

Do you have a favourite Swedish word you would like to nominate for our word of the day series? Get in touch by email or if you are a Member of The Local, log in to comment below.

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

​​Swedish word of the day: möte

The word of the day is perhaps Sweden’s second favourite pastime, after 'fika', and they often go hand in hand.

​​Swedish word of the day: möte

In 2017 Swedish television published an article with the headline, Möteskulturen frodas i Sverige, “The Meeting Culture is Thriving in Sweden”. For a non-Swede that might seem like an interesting and perhaps bizarre headline, but to the initiated it is all too familiar. 

A möte is simply a meeting, but for Swedes möten are something you do at every opportunity. Need to decide anything at all? Let’s have a möte. This can seem like an awful waste of time to a non-Swede, but Swedes are all about consensus. The idea is that after you have consensus you can move forward more efficiently. And Swedish society seems to do that really well. And it does not hurt that a möte is the perfect time for fika, or more precisely mötesfika.

As a bit of history, the English ‘meeting’ and Swedish möte are related, and they are also related to ‘moot’ as in ‘moot court’ or a ‘moot point’, “an issue that is subject to, or open for discussion or debate; originally, one to be definitively determined by an assembly of the people.” That assembly of people was originally an old Germanic type of town hall, a ting, where people met to discuss communal matters and settle disputes.

Today we can find the word ting in the names of the Icelandic parliament, the Althing, the Danish parliament, the Folketing, and the Norwegian parliament, the Storting. In Sweden you still find it in the name of the lower courts, Tingsrätten

The point is, there is a very old tradition of möten in Scandinavian culture. The Icelandic parliament, for instance, claims to be the oldest in the world. Whether the Icelanders can beat the Swedes at the time spent in möten at work is unsure, no statistics seem to be readily available for a comparison. 

Malin Åkerström, the researcher who was interviewed in the piece by Swedish television, claims that the public sector are the primary champions of möten, but it is also very common in the private sector. And möten are on the rise in many workplaces. 

Here it might help to know that in Sweden a möte can also be between you and just one other co-worker to discuss almost anything, so the term is quite broad. Then there are so called arbetsplatsträffar, more commonly referred to as APT, a type of longer, more serious möte that many workplaces hold regularly (there you can almost always count on fika). 

As you can see, Swedes love their möten – so why not find an excuse to stämma tid för ett möte with one of your Swedish friends or maybe a coworker? You might just make their day.

Example sentences:

Bettan, kan vi stämma tid för ett möte?

Bettan, can we decide on a time for a meeting?

Jag blir galen med alla dessa konstanta möten, va fan är det för fel på svenskar?

I’m going insane with all these constant meetings, what the hell is wrong with these Swedes?

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.

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