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  • Writer's pictureHannah Telluselle

Pros and cons of a union membership

Updated: Oct 8, 2023

Are you feeling badly treated in your workplace? Do other employees doing the same job as you have better pay? Or are you not comfortable about asking for a leave when you need to?

Being a member of a worker's union is very common in Sweden, especially for large groups of professions, like store workers, factory workers and hospital staff. This has to do with getting more pay for hours that lie outside of a normal workday. Shift-workers get compensation for this and for working holidays. We also have a legal system of receiving 2 1/2 days per month in paid vacation, that we're allowed to use in agreement with our employer. Most people take out a couple of days during Christmas and the rest during summer. We're allowed to have five weeks of vacation, if you're working a full time job with secure employment (not a contractor, or seasonal or hourly based). These things are incorporated into the Swedish Labor laws, much thanks to unions.

When it comes to salaries, the equal pay thus become ensured with a union membership, but can be with a little bit lower raises, since this too is meant to be equally distributed. At least once a year, the employer is responsible for having a meeting with each employee (that usually a Department manager or Human resource manager does) about their health and performance. It's also through unions certain insurances are included, and have an Ombudsman for work environment quality assurance, who can come and assist you, to improve the actual physical space you work in. And! There also is a union for CEOs and other managers! This is what I learned through my first couple of jobs as a young adult at TetraPak and at a clothing-store. Being a member of a union was also encouraged in my family, where my mother was elected to be an Equality Ombudsman for her union. However, in the advertising industry, there are no unions.

Without unions, you can form your own individual agreement with your boss more freely when it comes to terms and conditions, including your salary. Once, when I was fed up about having to work overtime (without extra pay) as a copywriter in Sweden, I barged down into my office saying I wanted to quit. My boss barged after me and offered me a freelance assignment instead, which enabled me to work from home and only come in for meetings, thus without having to sit half the day with nothing to do and still have to work late, when there was time for my part to be completed to our clients' campaign material. With the new deal, I ended up working less hours and making more money! I also felt a lot more free and was able to look for and do jobs elsewhere. A couple of months later, I was offered a position at another advertising agency and started there. There, however, it was very much differences between salaries and conditions, where a man younger than me, with less experience and less education than me, received a car and 500 USD more per month "since he had kids to support". Thus, after 6 months, my employer and I jointly agreed to go separate ways. And I became a life-coach...

Before becoming a member of a union, consider this:


+ More fellowship with other workers in the same industry as yourself

+ More job security in terms of rules for leaving

+ Same pay raise as your colleagues

+ Somewhere to turn with concerns about the work-environment, whether physical or emotional

+ Conditions enforced by law more firmly


- No individual agreements

- Less raise

- Managers can feel less trust from you

Without a union membership

* More freedom to leave

* Easier to make career advancements within the same firm

Would you like to discuss your job and how you can thrive with more motivation, yet with more life-work balance? Don't hesitate to contact me for a coaching session in person or by Zoom. The first one is for free!

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