Labour Unions

As a PhD student at KTH, you can join a trade union, regardless if you are employed or financed through a scholarship. In the latter case, you may have special membership that may give different benefits – check their website. Remember that any student can also get support from the PhD advisor!

What are unions?

A trade union is a type of association that works to improve working conditions. These can cover issues like salary, employment terms, safety of the work environment, and opportunities for in-service training in Sweden. 70% of the Swedish workforce is a member of a union and the unions who cater to PhD students are not politically affiliated. The unions are usually distinguished by the industry (or “trade”) they represent (for example, there is a union for engineers, one for doctors, one for lawyers, etc.)

As a PhD student at KTH, you can register in one of the following:

They all offer discounted membership fees for PhD students. They all target different publics and hence might have different interests or work. SULF, for example, targets academics, while Sveriges ingenjörer leans more towards the broader “Engineers” personnel, both in industry and in academia.

Why is important to join a union?

A union can serve as a third-party advocate for you as an employee at KTH. KTH has its own internal regulations, on top of that there may be different practices within different departments. However, KTH as an employer must comply with Swedish labor laws and regulations. Trade unions are well-versed in your rights as an employee, the collective agreements in place, and KTH’s obligations, while your academic advisor or your peers may not be.

THS and the PhD chapter are student unions which advocate and can influence KTH decisions when it comes to education quality and study environment, however they have limited power with problems of employment. For example, it is the trade unions who negotiate the PhD salary with KTH, not THS.

Joining a union is like insurance, become a member before you get any type of problem at your workplace. You have to be a member for at least three months before you can seek their help. However, you can still receive their guidance on issues as a new member.

What kind of benefits can you get from it?

With regard to employment, you can get advice and information on

  • Salary (if you are not being moved up in the salary ladder)
  • Discrimination
  • Job security
  • Working hours
  • Powers of authority
  • Health and Safety
  • Insurance
  • Pensions

Apart from legal advice and support the unions offer the opportunity to sign up for a-kassa (unemployment insurance), access to beneficial insurance, income insurance that tops up the a-kassa in case you become unemployed, mortgage discounts, seminars, courses, and access to salary statistics.

The trade union can also assist you with representation in individual cases. In cases where you feel your rights are being violated, or if conflicts occur at the workplace, the trade union can help you clear conflicts and back you up in case the conflict turns into a legal matter.

As a member of a union, you have the opportunity to participate in union work and to contribute to improving working conditions, for yourself and others. More information on unions can be found the PhD Handbook.