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.



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: liga

You may have this word in your native language or recognise it from football leagues such as the German Bundesliga or Spain's La Liga. Liga has a similar meaning in Swedish, too, with one crucial difference.

Swedish word of the day: liga

Liga originally comes from Latin ligāre (“to bind”). In most languages, liga means “league”, a group of individuals, organisations or nations who are united in some way.

Similar words exist in many European languages, such as Dutch, Spanish, Czech and Polish liga, Italian lega, French ligue and Romanian ligă.

A league is almost always something positive or neutral in other languages, but in Swedish a liga is something negative – a criminal gang, with the word ligist referring to a (usually young, male) gang member, thug or hooligan.

Political or diplomatic leagues are usually translated into Swedish as förbund (“union” or “association”) rather than liga: one example is the Swedish term for the League of Nations, Nationernas förbund.

The only exception to this rule is sport, where the popularity of international football leagues such as the Bundesliga and the Premier League has lessened the negative meaning somewhat in this context. Fans of hockey will be familiar with SHL, Svenska hockeyligan, and Sweden’s handball league is referred to as handbollsligan.

The history behind liga’negative meaning in Swedish can be traced back to the Thirty Years’ War, which took place largely within the Holy Roman Empire between 1618 and 1648.

Essentially, the Thirty Years’ War began as a fight between Protestant and Catholic states of the Holy Roman Empire, with Catholic states forming the Catholic League and Protestant states forming the Protestant Union.

Sweden was – and still is – Lutheran, meaning that, when they got involved in the war in 1630, their enemies were the Catholic League – or the katolska ligan in Swedish, with its members being referred to as ligister or “league-ists”.

King Gustav II Adolf eventually beat the Catholic League in 1631 at the Battle of Breitenfeld, ultimately leading to the formal dissolution of the league in 1635 in the Peace of Prague, which forbade alliances from forming within the Holy Roman Empire.

Although this may seem like ancient history, Swedes still don’t trust a liga – the word’s negative connotations have survived for almost 400 years.

Swedish vocabulary:

Jag är lite orolig för honom, han har börjat hänga med ett gäng ligister.

I’m a bit worried about him, he’s started hanging out with a group of thugs.

Manchester United har vunnit den engelska ligan flest gånger, men City är mästare just nu.

Manchester United have won the Premier League the most times, but City are the current champions.

De säger att det står en liga bakom det senaste inbrottsvågen.

They’re saying there’s a gang behind the recent spate of break-ins.

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