Still Adjusting | Working nine to five, not the only way to make a living

If foreigners living in Denmark were to make a list of their grievances – and let’s face it, we’re generally a whiny lot, so it wouldn’t be terribly hard – poor customer service would probably be near the top.

So sadly it came as little surprise to me when getting my home internet connection fixed became an unnecessarily complicated affair.


Simply coming into contact with them was difficult, as its phone hours, as is the case with so many other companies, are limited to Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. Having problems outside of those hours? Too damn bad. You have to wait until the pre-determined time to call. Then you wait on hold before finally reaching someone, just to have them tell you that it will be days before anyone can come out and check out the situation.


This was the silly dance I had to engage in before finally getting a Fullrate technician out to my house. When he arrived, I had functioning but slow internet. When he left, I had no internet connection at all. I was then told that a different technician would come and take care of the problem. In six days.


Coincidentally during this span, I saw a tweet from a friend of mine back home praising the “stellar customer service, even at 1:30am” she received from her internet provider. Why, I wondered, can Americans receive good customer service around the clock while in Denmark we need to make due with subpar customer service that is only available during traditional working hours?


This got me thinking about the power of unions. While I admit to not knowing if this is the case at Fullrate, the reason a lot of companies don’t have evening and weekend shifts is because collective bargaining agreements often insist that those working these ‘off-hour’ shifts get paid extra, thus making it cost-prohibitive for businesses.


Now, I’m not one to denigrate unions. Coming from a country that has benefited greatly from the early concessions won by labour unions, I recognise and appreciate their importance.


Back home, unions are nowadays almost exclusively the domain of blue-collar workers, but in Denmark nearly everyone is in a union regardless of their field, myself included, and there is no doubt that we have the unions to thank for the terrific work-life balance found here.


But I’ve also seen an effective campaign to demonise unions in the US, and the percentage of American workers who are part of a union has plummeted during my lifetime. The same thing could happen here if unions don’t make certain concessions, for example by acknowledging that the world no longer functions solely on a Monday-Friday, nine to five schedule, and by toning down some of their tactics.


Take for example the union 3F, which last year carried out the high-profile blockade of the restaurant Vejlegården in which it illegally called for customer boycotts, and strong-armed local business into stopping rubbish collection and post delivery to the restaurant.


3F was at it again recently with the workers’ strike at Carlsberg. There, 130 employees went on strike after one of their colleagues chose not to join 3F – something that he was completely within his legal right to do. While they held their strike, Carlsberg’s supply of kegged beer went dry. Hardly a brilliant PR move as surely the quickest way to lose the support of the masses is to rob them of their beer.


There has been a lot of talk recently about eliminating holidays, which most of us would surely hate to see happen. Wouldn’t a more easily digestible solution to spur growth be to relax demands on extra pay so that more people can work around the clock? Surely some of the 153,000 people currently unemployed in Denmark would be happy to fill some of the jobs that would be created by implementing more second shifts. This could cut down on joblessness, boost the economy and even provide better service to boot.


Follow the author on Twitter.