Unions rage over holiday hypocrisy
Mixed messages emanate from the halls of parliament as politicians take the day off while telling the public to give up their holidays
While the sound of construction echoed throughout the city, Christiansborg was as quiet as a crypt the day after Ascension Day (Kristi Himmelfartsdag).
As three-party negotiations get underway, the unions are struggling to accept politicians' desire to strip two holidays to make Danes work more, while they take days off themselves.
Dennis Kristensen, head of the FOA union, found it unbelievable that the politicians don’t live by the same standards that they are trying to impose on the public.
“The fact that they are not in Christiansborg the day after a holiday must be the world's worst commercial for a proposal that will scrap two holidays,” Kristensen told Politiken newspaper. “Apparently, politicians feel that what they demand of the public do not extend to themselves. It smells a lot like hypocrisy to me.”
Several politicians argued that parliament is organised in a manner that sometimes conflicts with what they tell the public to do and some, like Marianne Jelved (Radikale), think that the two issues are not connected at all.
“We continue working after Constitution Day (Grundlovsdag) every year and we’ll probably work through all of June,” Jelved told Politiken. “We work when we need to, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be on Ascension Day or the day after.”
Jelved also explained that if the holidays get scrapped, then it would mean longer working hours for the politicians with no pay increase, something commendable in her opinion.
“I think that you should be patting us on the back for working more weeks in June without extra pay or days off,” she told Politiken.
The three-party negotiations between the government, business leaders and the labour force is expected to be completed before summer, but whether the proposal to scrap the holidays makes it through remains to be seen. As of now, there is still political opposition to the initiative, and the unions are adamant that the holidays shouldn't be discarded until the recession is over.
"The need for working more doesn't mean we have to start on it tomorrow," Harald Børsting, the chairman of LO, the organisation that represents 18 different labour unions and more than one million workers, told Politiken newspaper. "If the government thinks it should start next year, they should propose that at the negotiating table. But that's not an opinion I endorse."
Bente Sorgenfry, spokeswoman for FTF union, agreed with Børsting, adding that it may take several years before the Danes will be asked to work more.
"We won't work more in 2013 or 2014, so it will come into effect in 2015 at the earliest," Sorgenfry told Politiken. "People are being laid off in our sector while others face worktime reductions, so the rest shouldn't be asked to work more."