The right for a member of a Labour Union in Sweden to get legal aid is stated in the statutes of the unions.
Legal service is awarded subject to prior decision taken by the executive body of the respective national union. In most cases this is being done in the following way.
The national union concerned appoints a lawyer from LO-TCO Rättsskydd AB to assist the member affected by a dispute. The national union pays all the costs caused by the dispute i.e. the work of the lawyer as well as the possible costs of the counterpart.
Legal service is normally granted in the following cases, i.e.:
• Disputes with the employer.
• Alleged crimes committed at the workplace.
• Issues related to social security such as the right to indemnity in the cases of occupational injuries, sickness benefit, disability pension etc.
• Indemnity for injuries caused by the employer.
• Other legal disputes directly linked to employment.
The legal bureau (LO-TCO Rättsskydd AB)
LO-TCO Rättsskydd AB is usually described as the trade unions’ own lawyers’ office. It is a joint stock company, in which 90 per cent of the shares are owned by the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO), thus indirectly by the national unions affiliated to the LO, and 10 per cent are owned by The Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees, (TCO).
LO-TCO Rättsskydd AB gives legal assistance and service to LO, TCO, the LO and TCO affiliates and some other unions. This means that, after decision in their own trade union organization, about 2,7 million LO and TCO members can get support in legal affairs related to their work.
LO-TCO Rättsskydd AB employs a total of 45 people. The company is divided in two different departments with the following functions:
Department of occupational injuries and social insurance
With the help of consulting medical experts, the 13 lawyers in this department represent the members of the unions before the authorities making decisions concerning the right to social insurance’s, before the court and the High Court deciding in these matters. If a person employed by a company, not covered by collective no fault accident and sickness insurance’s, is hit by an accident, the lawyers of this department represent him/her in the negotiations with the insurance company of the employer concerned or in court.
This department handles about 500 cases every year. At the moment, the number of issues amounts to 800.
Department of labour and criminal law.
This department, consisting of 20 lawyers, mostly handles cases concerning labour relation disputes and represents the union and its members in court.
The department however also handles criminal cases where a member of the union is prosecuted for a crime he or she is suspected of having committed in connection with his or her work. An example could be when a worker causes injuries to, or the death of, a fellow worker.
The department also deals with company law, civil law and law of bankruptcy.
This department handles now approximately 500 cases and each year 500 new cases are submitted to the department.
Normally the need of legal assistance only occurs when negotiations have failed and the next step is to take the dispute to court. This also means that the cases submitted to LO-TCO Rättsskydd AB are cases of great importance and might serve as pilot cases for the future.
LO-TCO Rättsskydd AB represents the employee in about 35 per cent of all cases submitted to the Labour Court.
Thus LO-TCO Rättsskydd AB works like any lawyer’s office; the bureau charges the unions for the work according to a fixed rate per hour laid down each year. For 2017 this rate is SEK 1,820 for the department of occupational injuries and social insurance’s and SEK 2,290 for the department of labour and criminal law, VAT excluded.
The lawyers also give legal advice on telephone to the trade union officials employed by the unions. This is normally free of charge. Every day one lawyer at each department is responsible to answer telephone questions.
The total net cost of LO-TCO Rättsskydd AB, i.e. for the two departments and for the internal administration, amounted last years to about SEK 60 million. This is less than SEK 23 per affiliates member. The last years the lawyers of the company secured compensations to the client/the trade union members of about SEK 200 million.