Trade union representatives and business leaders on Sunday agreed on the terms of new two-year labour agreements affecting more than a quarter million workers in all areas of heavy industry and its administration.
Pay rises and increased benefits were never expected to be part of the negotiations between the labour association CO-Industri, representing eight different heavy industrial trade unions with 240,000 workers, and Dansk Industri (DI), representing 6,000 businesses.
Instead both parties acknowledged that the new two-year collective bargaining agreements (overenskomster) must address the need for wage controls and increased productivity in order to make Danish businesses more competitive and keep more jobs in Denmark.
But in the end, the trade unions managed to win a modest 2.55 percent wage increase over the next two years to bring the minimum wage for industrial workers up from 106 to 108.70 kroner per hour.
In actuality, that slim increase will not even keep pace with inflation. But in a year when actual pay cuts and a longer working week were on the table as real possibilities, the unions considered it more than acceptable.
Â“ItÂ’s a humble agreement in terms of the money, but itÂ’s the right idea for the present, so IÂ’m really quite satisfied,Â” Harald BÃ¸rsting, the chairman of LO, an association representing 18 trade unions, told public broadcaster DR.
Â“I have no doubt that this agreement will improve our competitiveness and help create jobs. It pulls us in the right direction, because it will make it easier to keep jobs in Denmark,Â” he added.
John Dyrby Paulsen, the finance spokesman for Socialdemokraterne, the governmentÂ’s leading party, wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday that it was Â“tremendously positiveÂ” that labour and business leaders were able to see eye to eye on the austere agreement.
Â“Money is too tight for the big excesses, but this agreement is good for Denmark and the Danish economy,Â” he added.
Other details of the agreement included more flexibility for older workers Â– whether it be to reduce their working hours or prolong their working years Â– and improved continuing education and skills improvement for all industrial workers.
The deal between CO-Industry and DI is considered significant as it sets the tone for all of the unions involved in collective bargaining this year.