This section mainly describes cooperation and legislation in Sweden. The situation is broadly similar in the Netherlands and the UK.
The company regards union activities as valuable. The company's employees are represented on the Group Board by three members and three deputy members. The union organisations meet regularly in consultation groups. These groups are appointed at Group, business area and workplace level and meet the management of the unit concerned on a regular basis. The unions are involved in or act as referral bodies in various issues. Safety officers also play an important role. Union activities and the time needed for them are governed by legislation and agreements between the company and the union organisations.
Terms of employment are mainly governed by agreements at national level between the employer organisation and the unions. These agreements contain guidelines for annual pay reviews and general terms of employment such as pension and insurance terms. All national agreements are binding on the company and its union organisations. Taken together, this contributes to greater employment security for Holmen's employees. The agreements are supplemented by agreements at local level covering working hours, flexitime and preventive health care. The employees are also offered a company health service and voluntary group insurance schemes providing increased cover for accidents and death, for example. Holmen's pay policy and pay process describe the basis on which the company sets pay for a particular position.
The rate of union membership in Holmen varies between countries and is highest in Sweden, at 80.4 per cent. The equivalent figure for the UK is 53 per cent. The company considers it important to have a distinct counterpart for important negotiation issues.
Health and safety rules have been drawn up at all units in association with the unions.
Collaboration over nation borders with the Holmen European Works Council
The Holmen European Works Council (HEWC) is the Group's internal European union council. Its activities are governed by EU law. The Council consists of eleven members and represents all the larger units. The HEWC convenes twice a year, and acts as a forum for consultation across national borders. Experience is favourable, and the HEWC has helped Group units in various countries to come closer together.
Disputes and disagreements
When disagreements over working conditions arises that cannot be resolved by managers and employees with assistance from the unit's HR department are referred for local negotiation between representatives of the company and the employee's union. If the parties still fail to agree, the matter can be referred for central negotiation between representatives at national level. The Labour Court is the arbiter of last resort in Sweden. The disputes that arise in Holmen are resolved in virtually all cases within the company. It is very unusual for disputes to go to court.
Overmanning arises when the company's organisation is larger than is required for the long-term operation of the business in accordance with the strategy established by the company. When this situation occurs, the employer negotiates with the unions with a view to reaching a mutually acceptable solution. In Sweden, an impact assessment is also made in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Swedish Work Environment Authority. In the event of overmanning, the company aims to minimise the number of redundancies as far as possible through redeployment and training. Notice periods are governed by national agreements between the parties.
The Swedish Co-determination at Work Act
To all important changes in the business the The Swedish Co-determination at Work Act applies. The aim is to give the employees' side influence and right of co-determination on important issues. In the event of major changes to the organisation, the employer is required to negotiate before a decision is made. The union organisations have the right to receive information, analyse the impact and express their opinion before a decision is made.