Public workers handed rough collective bargaining agreement

Unions and employees suffer second consecutive collective bargaining agreement negotiation defeat, and more battles are on the way

February 18th, 2013 11:05 am| by admin
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After intense negotiations, there is a new collective bargaining agreement (overenskomst) in place for Denmark’s more than 500,000 public workers.

The negotiations, which stretched out over Friday and Saturday, resulted in a general wage increase of 1.97 percent over two years, complimented with an additional 0.25 percent increase for employees within certain areas.

TV2 News also reported that the so-called ‘safety pool’, which gives employees who lose their jobs due to council cuts the opportunity to upgrade their qualifications and continue their professional training, would also remain in place.

Furthermore, employees were given the right to partially go on pension if their working hours are reduced, which was one of the prime demands of the employees' unions due to the changes in the early retirement benefits scheme, efterløn.

Anders Bondo Christensen, the chief negotiator for the employees, said he was generally pleased with the new agreement.

“We have agreed to a small compromise that reflects the current global socio-economic situation, where it has not been possible to secure the employees improved real wages for the period,” Christensen told Politiken newspaper.

It is the second consecutive collective bargaining agreement that will result in real-wage losses for public employees.

“It’s historic and I can’t remember the last time that occurred. If you consider inflation, then the agreement means real-wage losses for the employees, which can only be interpreted as a defeat for the unions,” Flemming Ibsen, a labour researcher at Aalborg University, told Politiken. “The employees are simply becoming poorer in terms of purchasing power, and that’s something that stings.”

The negotiation results will be instrumental in the upcoming weeks as collective bargaining agreements for individual trade groups are expected to be negotiated.

Ibsen predicted a particularly tough fight over teachers' working hours and said that the teacher’s union, Danmarks Lærerforening, can only hope for “concession or conflict” in their negotiations with local government association KL.

“We still have the big drama left to play out. And that happens when KL and Danmarks Lærerforening commence negotiation proceedings for a new working-hours agreement,” Ibsen told Ritzau.

The agreement reached over the weekend affects some 515,000 employees of Denmark's 98 councils and five regions. 

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