A sour apple for teachers?

Union proposes that young teachers work for their unemployment benefits

Anders Bondo Christensen, the chairman of the Danish teacher’s union Danmarks Lærerforening (DLF), has proposed that newly-graduated teachers who are having trouble finding a job should go to work in the schools to earn their daily unemployment benefit allowance (dagpenge). Christensen said the proposal will be part of the upcoming three-party talks between employers, unions and the government.

Bente Sorgenfrey, the president of FTF, a union representing 450,000 public and private employees that includes the teachers' union under its umbrella, thinks the proposal is a good one. Christensen's proposal would see some 3,000 new teaching graduates go to work this summer in order to sharpen their skills and give them real-world experience before a regular paying job presents itself.

"The proposal makes perfect sense with so many young graduates having a hard time finding work," Sorgenfrey told Politiken newspaper.

Sorgenfrey agreed that getting young teachers into the workplace via the proposed method will help them gain much needed experience and better position them to get a paying job when one opens up. Graduates working for unemployment benefits would be required to remain available for full-time work and be willing to relocate to get a job.

Although Sorgenfrey believes that the proposed model could work throughout the public employment sector, she stressed that employers should not look at it as an opportunity to obtain cheap labour by laying off salaried employees and taking on workers on benefits.

The employment minister, Mette Frederiksen (Socialdemokraterne) said that she is open to discussing Christensen’s proposal.

"Teachers and their unions are thinking completely outside the box in regards to this area,” Frederiksen said. “I am obviously willing to listen.”

The proposal has been criticised by some newly-graduated teachers who are afraid they will be seen as a source of cheap labour. Frederiksen agreed that care should be taken to guard against that scenario but still believed it was important to look at the union’s proposal.

"The key is to create jobs,” said Frederiksen. “I see this as a chance for teachers to keep their skills fresh and gain experience.”

Officials in the city of Odense say they are ready to start bringing on the young teachers as soon as the proposal is implemented. The alderman for the city's children and youth administration, Stina Willumsen (Socialistisk Folkeparti), plans to meet with the local branch of the teachers' union to develop a system to implement the plan as soon as it becomes legal.

"It is an excellent proposal,” said Willumsen. “If it is something we can make fly in Odense, then we are ready to get started.”