Three-party meetings gather momentum

After weeks of deliberations through the media, the three-party talks have finally begun in earnest

The government is negotiating with the employers and labour unions in order to get more people to work, increase competitiveness and funnel more funds into the state treasury. As a result, the three parties have sat down to talks on the future of working conditions spanning to 2020.

In accordance to the 2020 economic plan, the goal of the reform is to add an additional 20,000 more people to the labour force as well as find four billion kroner for the state budget.

Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne) was satisfied after the preliminary sessions yesterday, indicating that while the going may get rough, all the parties are dedicated to agreeing on a solution.

“The strong point is that we are all want a result that benefits our country,” Thorning-Schmidt said. “We all agree that Denmark faces tremendous challenges and that they must be overcome together.”

Harald Børsting, the chairman of LO, the organisation that represents 18 different labour unions, indicated that while he doesn’t attend negotiations with ultimate demands, there are still many differences to be ironed out.

“When you work more, you should get more in pay. It’s as simple as that,” Børsting told metroXpress newspaper. “I haven’t heard anyone requiring free labour as of yet, but we haven’t got their quite yet.”

Despite the early optimism conveyed by the prime minister, Henning Jørgensen, a labour market professor at Aalborg University, was sceptical of the unions' ability to get their demands pushed through.

“I think that they [unions] have completely given up on the extended unemployment periods because it’s too expensive and Radikale are against it,” Jørgensen told metroXpress. “But the unemployment time period is critical for the unions to push through to ensure that people don’t completely fall through the social welfare system already in 2013.”

The three-party negotiations are expected to be finished by July 1 and will focus on the following:

  • In an attempt to increase the labour force by 20,000, work hours are set to be extended by reducing the number of national holidays, vacation days and sickness absence, increasing work time, making labour planning more flexible and getting more people into full-time positions rather than part-time.
  • Within the business education area, more youths should complete business courses, drop-outs should be reduced and the quality of education improved. More internships should be created and more should start their education before the age of 25 years of age.
  • New opportunities must be discussed that will assist unskilled adults in upgrading themselves to skilled workers, and from skilled to advanced. Furthermore, the adult and continuing education efforts should be strengthened to get the most out of private and public investments.
  • The negotiations will also deal with how to strengthen the relationship between employers, employees and their organisations in a bid to make them more competitive.
  • The agenda will also include how to improve the situation for foreign workers through increasing efforts to fight against 'social dumping', in which foreign workers are forced to work for lower pay and in poorer conditions than their Danish counterparts.
  • Addressing the employment situation, discussions will occur concerning the division of work between the unemployment funds and job centres, to avoid redundancy. Also, different models to strengthen the regional employment efforts will be discussed, including whether or not the time schedule currently used is adequate.
  • A 'youth package' will be looked at to address youth unemployment, school drop outs, and secure more internships.
  • Negotiations will take up how streamline the public sector by focusing on less bureaucracy and better use of resources, as well as making the public sector more results-orientated as opposed to fulfilling pre-existing criteria.

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