Swedish word of the day: fack

The word
I was going to join a Swedish trade union, but then I thought "facket". Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Here's an important word to know for people working in Sweden.

Fack can mean two things in Swedish. The first meaning is “small compartment or box”, and the second meaning, which this article will focus on, is “trade union”.

Pronunciation-wise, it sounds a lot like the English swearword that starts with an F and rhymes with “duck”. The article is -et, so “a trade union” is facket. So if you’ve been wondering why your Swedish colleagues have been saying “fuck it” so often, now you know.

Fack in the sense of “trade union” is an abbreviation of fackförbund or fackförening. There are specific trade unions for different professions, as well as more general overarching trade unions representing a wider range of professions.

We’ve chosen fack as our word of the day, as it’s a pretty impossible word to avoid if you work in Sweden. With over 70 percent of the Swedish workforce unionised, you’re sure to hear about a fack sooner or later.

Unions also play an important role in the so-called Swedish model, the idea that unions and employers organisations work together to ensure good working conditions and thereby avoid strikes, so they are an integral part of Swedish workplace culture, whether you’re unionised or not.

You might also come across the term fackklubb, a group of union-affiliated workers who create a trade union club at their workplace, which will then elect one or more members who can represent employees in any discussions with their employer.

Unionised workers in Sweden pay a monthly fee to be members of a union, which varies between unions. Read more here for information on union membership for foreign workers in Sweden.

Examples

Do you know if he’s joined the union?

Vet du om han har gått med i facket?

I’m considering changing union.

Jag överväger att byta fackförening.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to pre-order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it, and use the discount code VOVVELOVE (valid until October 27th) to get a 10% discount on all pre-orders.


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