Europe and the Nordic Collective-Bargaining Model

The Complex Interaction between Nordic and European Labour Law

image of Europe and the Nordic Collective-Bargaining Model

One of the special features of the Nordic countries is that the determination of wages and working conditions is largely left up to the negotiations between the social partners. The purpose of this report is to illuminate a number of the challenges faced by the labour-law systems of the Nordic countries in the light of an increasingly well-developed European law system.The first part of the report was prepared by Dr. Jur. Jens Kristiansen, the editor-in-chief, and focuses on a number of the general challenges facing the labour-law systems of the Nordic countries in the form of European rules and court decisions.The second part of the report was prepared by various representatives of employer and employee organisations in the Nordic countries and illustrates some of the challenges faced by the social partners in their interaction with the European court system and the way in which these challenges have been addressed in the individual countries.



The Nordic Model and the EU: Implementation of Directive 96/71/EC – the Icelandic Experience

A common characteristic of the Nordic countries is what is referred to as the Nordic labour-market model. It is characterised by relatively strong trade unions, which organise between 55% and 86% of all wage-earners. Other shared characteristics include a mixture of centralised and local rounds of bargaining; a joint wage policy based on solidarity; wellestablished tripartite councils; a strong, respected obligation to keep the peace; the prominent role of a public conciliation board; incorporation of wage-earners’ general rights and legal protection into legislation and labour- market agreements; and, finally, the absence of a statutory minimum wage. In spite of these shared main features, the Nordic countries are different. Iceland is different in a number of ways: there is a high level of organisation membership on the private labour market, where 86% of wage-earners are members of a trade union and 70% of employers belong to an employers’ organisation; the scope of labour law is relatively small; labour-market agreements become law and automatically become generally applicable (automatic extension, erga omnes) as regards minimum conditions which the Icelandic trade unions see as a tool in the fight against “social dumping”; wage formation is flexible; and, finally, there is relatively low job protection.

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