Collaboration at KI

From January the 1st, 2019, there is a new collaboration agreement between Karolinska Institutet and the trade unions Saco-S at KI, OFR / S, P, O and Seko. The shared purpose of the collaboration is that it is part of creating a sustainable everyday life, with a balanced working life where the organization is in focus. Collaboration is the tool for creating participation and influence, which contributes to a greater understanding of one's own situation and organization goals.

The collaboration process at KI. Photo: -

As an employee, you should familiarise yourself with the agreement and consider its implications for you and your workplace. If you have any questions about the content of the agreement or how collaboration works in practice, please raise the issue within your group, unit or division, with your line manager or union representative.

The purpose of collaboration is to facilitate an open and trusting dialogue that contributes to influence over and participation in the organisation. Staff and management are provided with opportunities to receive information and become involved in good time. The principle shall be that issues are decided where they naturally belong within the organisation. The goal is to achieve continuous development, for staff as well as for the workplace and organisation.

A functional system of collaboration is built on responsibility, trust and the desire to become involved on the part of staff, management, elected union officials and health and safety representatives. Collaboration permeates the entire organisation; together, we create the preconditions for a positive working climate, a sound work environment and an organisation under continuous development.

Among the prerequisites for influence and participation are the existence of forums in which to meet and clear decision-making mandates. It is also important that feedback is forthcoming regarding issues raised within the organisation.

Training in collaboration

Please go through the digital education about collaboration at KI, which you find here

The formal basis for collaboration

The local collaboration agreement, Sustainable Collaboration and Participation for the Future, places the emphasis on the organisation with the aim of creating the conditions for organisational development, a sound work environment, equal opportunities and the development of employeeship and leadership. The agreement highlights the workplace and the individual employee; aside from influence through your elected union officials and health and safety representatives, you yourself have the opportunity to exercise influence.

The collaboration described in the collaboration system is a development of the basic labour-law principles in the Swedish Co-determination in the Workplace Act (SFS 1976:580), Work Environment Act (SFS 1977:1160), Discrimination Act (SFS 2008:567) and Trade Union Representatives (Status at the Workplace) Act (SFS 1974:358). Karolinska Institutet’s local collaboration agreement is based on the central Framework Agreement on Collaboration for the Future between the unions and the Swedish Agency for Government Employers.

Collaboration system

Forums: dialogue between staff and management, group/unit/division meetings and collaboration committees are all components of the collaboration system. The components of the collaboration system are interdependent.

collaboration is part of the ordinary duties included in everyone’s job description – staff, managers, union officials or health and safety representatives – all of whom must take responsibility for their own participation and make use of the available forums for collaboration. One crucial prerequisite for successful collaboration is trust, between the various parties and between managers and staff.

Levels of collaboration correspond to the levels of Karolinska Institutet’s organisation and its rules of procedure; i.e., at the following three levels:

  • Group/unit/division – direct collaboration
  • Departmental level – trade union collaboration
  • Public authority level – trade union collaboration

Meetings at group/unit/division level deal with issues related to the organisational unit in question.

collaboration committees deal with issues affecting more than one group/unit/division. Departmental collaboration committees also provide support to management and staff.

A collaboration committee consists of representatives of the employer and trade unions and health and safety representatives. Each trade union appoints its own representatives.

Collaboration at public authority level deals with overarching issues related to the university as a public authority and here too each trade union appoints its own representatives. Collaboration at public authority level supports the work of departmental collaboration committees as and when necessary.

Manager and staff in dialogue

The dialogue between members of staff and management is intended to create understanding, motivation, commitment and development. Staff and managers alike have a responsibility for ensuring a healthy dialogue. This is the forum for dealing with issues related to the organisation and work environment as they affect the employee’s own work situation. This dialogue should be characterised by participation, openness and respect.

Dialogue should be both ongoing and conducted as part of the annual performance review. Performance reviews must be documented.

Group/unit/division meetings

Regular group/unit/division meetings are the principal forum for collaboration, being the natural meeting place for the organisation and for discussions related to systematic work environment management, accessibility and equal opportunities. 

It is important that rules are set for these meetings so that both staff and managers know where they stand and can shoulder their responsibilities.

Relevant issues regarding the workplace are addressed at these meetings in dialogue. Managers can raise specific management issues in the relevant management forum. Everyone should feel that they are entitled to speak, regardless of whether they agree with what has been said or would like to voice a different opinion. Employee influence is not only a right, there is also an obligation to contribute to the best of one’s ability. Correspondingly, it is the manager’s responsibility to inform staff and to give transparent and serious consideration to their thoughts and opinions, and to develop and discuss them accordingly.

Departmental collaboration committees

While a collaboration committee also normally functions as the department’s work environment committee, exactly how collaboration should work at the department is itself a matter of collaboration. This being the case, it is necessary to reach broad agreement on membership, agendas, etc. All parties shall bear responsibility for ensuring that collaboration is achieved through meaningful dialogue. It must be made clear what constitutes a collaboration issue. The employer is responsible for documenting that there has indeed been collaboration on issues of a more important character.

Collaboration in practice

If collaboration is to succeed and to ensure the opportunity to exercise influence, it is important that collaboration issues are raised at the earliest possible juncture, thus providing the conditions for meaningful dialogue. Once staff have had the opportunity to voice their opinions to the extent that the issue can be considered to have been sufficiently examined, the manager may reach a decision. While the ambition of collaboration is to achieve consensus, the decision always rests with the responsible manager.

It is important to provide feedback regarding any issues raised. No issues should be left unexamined. This applies to all collaboration processes.

Collaboration is an attitude. Collaboration may be applied to issues such as recruitment, organisation, operational planning and monitoring or to job-satisfaction and work-environment issues but it does not apply to issues such as:

  • disputes;
  • salary negotiations;
  • terms of employment;
  • redeployment in the event of closures and rationalisation; or
  • dealing with issues pursuant to Chapter 6 Sections 6a and 7 of the Work Environment Act.

Generally speaking, collaboration should take place at the level the decision is made or the level affected by the decision, implying, for example, that collaboration prior to a recruitment should take place between staff and the manager employing the new staff member, even if the formal decision to employ rests with the head of department.

Sustainable collaboration

All staff and managers should be familiar with how we put collaboration into practice at Karolinska Institutet. Staff and managers are given information about collaboration during onboarding. Managers also receive information and training on collaboration in Karolinska Institutet’s management training programme.

The application and development of the collaboration agreement is followed up by the parties on an ongoing basis at each level of collaboration. Should any additional information of relevance to collaboration arise, this will be included in the follow up. The results of the follow up may reveal the need to further develop collaboration or to implement additional measures to ensure that collaboration works satisfactorily.

The HR Department is responsible for managing collaboration and together with trade unions will support and develop collaboration activities.

[1] Work environment committees are consultative bodies comprised of representatives of the employer and trade unions and health and safety representatives, that deal with issues of planning, implementing and monitoring systematic work environment management. The purpose of work conducted by local work environment committees is to contribute to developing systematic work environment management and a good work environment.

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Carolina Ström

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Jenny Wärnlund

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Åsa Agréus


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