Unions push hard on unemployment benefits

Voters agree with the unions who want their members to have access to unemployment benefits earlier than an upcoming change to 52 weeks

May 16th, 2012 9:43 am| by admin

As part of the three-party negotiations, one of the unions' major demands is a reduction in the time a person must work before being able to receive unemployment benefits.

A 2010 law proposal, that is set to go into effect on July 2, will not only reduce the unemployment benefit duration limit from four to two years, but the time an individual must have worked to qualify for the benefits will also increase from 26 to 52 weeks.

But the unions, who have been criticised for being too weak at the negotiating table, are looking to stand firm on the unemployment benefit issue. And the voters seem to back them, according to YouGov findings done for MetroXpress newspaper.

A majority of 51 percent indicated that they supported having the unemployment benefit qualification time remain at its current 26 weeks, while 34 percent were against and 15 percent were undecided.

The costs associated with scaling the time limit back to 26 weeks is estimated to cost about the same amount as when they increased it to 52 weeks, about 160 million kroner.  

And this price is minimal when compared to the four billion kroner that the three-party negotiations are set to generate, according to Bente Sorgenfri, who is head of the Confederation for Professionals in Denmark union (FTF).

“One of our clear expectations is that, out of the four billion kroner we need to raise, part of it should go to re-establishing the unemployment benefit duration limit back to 26 weeks,” Sorgenfri told MetroXpress.

The three-party negotiations between the government, the employers and the labour force are set to be concluded before the start of the summer. The proposal has garnered some political backing.

“The government will get not one, but two pats on the shoulder if they listen to the public and unions concerning this issue,” Enhedslisten spokesperson Christian Juhl told MetroXpress. “And when the cost is only around 160 million, then it should be easier to convince the government.”

Henning Jørgensen, who is a labour market researcher at Aalborg University, was sure that the unions will have success in their bid to negotiate the time limit down again.

“It’s a three-party negotiation where there will be compromises, and when the labour force once again has to commit to more work, then they need something in return,” Jørgensen told Newspaq. “Of one thing I am fairly sure. Improvement can be made so that the unemployment benefit qualification time can be reduced to 26 weeks.”

The three-party negotiations have weighed heavily in the media recently, including discussions about the possibility of having to forgo two holidays in the future to give a boost to a stagnant labour environment.

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