Union’s blockade of restaurant was legal, but some of its actions were not

Labour court rules that some of 3F’s tactics, including its calls for a customer boycott and threats against a newspaper, went too far

The union 3F's blockade against Restaurant Vejlegården and its owner, Amin Skov, was completely legal, the labour court, Arbejdsretten, ruled today. 


However, some of 3F's tactics – which included calls for customer boycotts, no rubbish removal or post delivery, and threats against the local Vejle newspaper for publishing the restaurant's ads – went too far, the court said.


The case was brought before the court by Kristelig Arbejdsgiverforening, an employers' association that is a partner organisation with Krifa, the trade union with which Skov entered into a collective bargaining agreement in November 2011 instead of 3F. 


It was this deal that was behind the blockade, which began in March and over the summer turned into a bit of a political sideshow, as numerous politicians went to the restaurant to show their support and make sure that they were caught by cameras enjoying Vejlegården's stegte flæsk med persillesovs.


The deal with Krifa, struck after Skov annulled a collective bargaining agreement with 3F, allowed him to play his employees less than what he would have paid them under the 3F deal. All of Vejlegården's employees agreed to the Krifa deal.


A comparison of the two agreements over the summer revealed that all of the employees at Restaurant Vejlegården were earning 110.50 kroner per hour under their Krifa agreement. Under the restaurant’s old deal with 3F, trained waiters made 139.50 kroner per hour and trained chefs 125 kroner per hour.


Following the ruling that 3F's blockade against Vejlegården – if not its tactics – was within the law, the employment minister, Mette Frederiksen (Socialdemokraterne), said that the right to picket was a valued part of the Danish work model.


"Even though the vast majority of conditions within the labour market are settled amicably at the negotiating table, the right to strike is essential for the functioning of the labour market," Frederiksen told Ritzau news bureau. 


When the action against Vejlegården hit its peak in late summer, opposition parties Venstre and Dansk Folkeparti (DF) suggested that unions should be banned from engaging in boycotts against businesses that are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. 


While the parties then backed off that suggestion, Liberal Alliance MP Joachim B Olsen appealed to them in the wake of Arbejdsretten's ruling to join his party in pushing for it again.


"This decision means that 3F's unjust war against Amin Skov can continue," Olsen told DR. "We need to change the rules so that the Danish model can be adapted to a modern labour market. We are putting the finishing touches on a proposal that will make it impossible to establish sympathy actions against a business if less than 50 percent of its employees are union members. I very much hope that at least Venstre and Dansk Folkeparti will support it."


Speaking to DR, DF's labour spokesperson Bent Bøgsted didn't specifically address Olsen's proposal but stressed that his party "still thinks it is wrong to blockade a company that has a thorough collective bargaining agreement".

  • How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    Being part of a trade union is a long-established norm for Danes. But many internationals do not join unions – instead enduring workers’ rights violations. Find out how joining a union could benefit you, and how to go about it.

  • Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals are overrepresented in the lowest-paid fields of agriculture, transport, cleaning, hotels and restaurants, and construction – industries that classically lack collective agreements. A new analysis from the Workers’ Union’s Business Council suggests that internationals rarely join trade unions – but if they did, it would generate better industry standards.

  • Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    The numbers are especially striking amongst the 3,477 business and economics students polled, of whom 31 percent elected Novo Nordisk as their favorite, compared with 20 percent last year.