Government accused of not playing fair in teacher negotiations

News programme reveals that councils and the government colluded on an education reform without including the nation’s teachers

As part of the vaunted 'Danish model', disputes between employers and employees have traditionally been solved without mingling from the government. Revelations from public broadcaster DR’s TV programme '21Søndag', however, show that the central government and the local government association, Kommunernes Landsforening (KL), made plans for an education reform without including the nation's teachers.

The reform has become a central element of the on-going negotiations between KL and teachers, which may result in teachers nationwide being locked out after the Easter break. 

21Søndag claims that when the new government came to power in 2011, it was planning a new education reform which would be financed by changing teachers' working hours.

The government created a work group in December 2011 which was to make the plans for a reform. This group held a secret meeting on 13 November 2012, which was attended by the minister of business and growth, Annette Vilhelmsen (Socialistisk Folkeparti), the economy minister, Margrethe Vestager (Radikale), the minister of finance, Bjarne Corydon (Socialdemokraterne), and the education minister, Christine Antorini (Socialdemokraterne). Also at the meeting was Rødovre's mayor, Erik Nielsen (Socialdemokraterne), who is also the deputy leader of KL, and Høje Taastrup's mayor, Michael Ziegler (Konservative), who is KL's chief personnel negotiator. Other high-ranking officials from KL and the permanent secretary of the prime minister's office were also in attendance, but no summary of the meeting can be found.

About a month after the meeting, the government stated its proposed education reform was to save them two billion kroner and would be financed mostly by changes in the working hours of teachers.

This has led to accusations that the government has already lent its support to KL at the expense of the teachers.  

According to Anders Bondo Christensen, the head of the teachers’ union DLF, there has been a very close relationship between KL and the government

“The ideal is to finish with a result which everyone agrees with,” Christensen told 21Søndag, but added that he felt that the teachers have had no say in the negotiations.

Both KL and Corydon deny that they have made any agreements. The government was previously accused of meddling in the teacher talks when Vestager insinuated that teachers were lying about the impact of the reform and were "taking the negotiations hostage". For Corydon, these types of allegations have been levelled before, as he came under fire for interfering with the negotiations between SAS employers and employees in November. 

Far-left party Enhedslisten and right-wingers Dansk Folkeparti both criticised the government for letting the education reform affect the negotiations between KL and the teachers.

The negotiations between KL and the teachers will be resumed on Friday, which is the last day before schools adjourn for the Easter holiday.

Anders Balle, the president of the school leaders' association, Skolelederforeningen, said that a lockout on April 1 is very likely.

“Parents should now prepare themselves as the schools could be closed after the Easter holiday,” Balle told Jyllands-Posten.