Message-ID: <l031303b6b17c5ee4a013@[]>
Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 08:55:42 +0100
Reply-To: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: Hugh Rodwell <m-14970@MAILBOX.SWIPNET.SE>
Subject: Danish strike ends

Danish strike ends

By Martin Johansen, 11 May 1998


As some of you may have learnt already the Danish parliament intervened in the strike on Thursday by pushing through a law which gives the workers some small concessions and the employers bigger concessions. The strike is hereby officially _ended_ and any further strikes will be punished with fines (from the Industrial Court which isn't tied to the legal system). The law is in fact very nasty as it is designed to split workers and is paid totally by the workers themselves—the extra holidays are paid by tax reliefs to the employers and lower payment to pension funds. The law was pushed through by a votes from the government parties (a Blair-style Labour Party plus a little social-liberal party) and bourgeois parties. An interview the other night revealed that the bourgeois parties would only support the law if the concessions was restricted to only a part of the workforce (a right wing MP was asked this question but refused to answer, she didn't reject it).

Tomorrow morning will probably see a number of protest strikes but I doubt if they will last that long. The momentum seem to have been lost. There was a protest demonstration on Thursday in Copenhagen of 3-5,000 people which is only a shadow of the protest demonstrations in 1985 ( 1-200,000 people). This is disappointing but understandable. As I have mentioned before the strike was never very active. A small layer on the ground has been very active in organising picket lines, demonstrations and so on, but we have never seen any kind of broad organisation of shop stewards. Even the shop steward meetings—which has been very militant—has been much, much smaller than in 1985. So one of the lessons from this strike is that organisation on the ground floor is crucial to make a strike succesful. This is the more important as the support of the strike has been overwhelming and hasn't seemed to be impressed by politicians' and media's efforts in trying to make the strike unpopular. But the mood on the shop floor has very much been left to its own as there has not been any kind of organisation which was able to channel the mood for strike into broad activity.

But in spite of this I am certain to say, that this strike marked more a beginning than an end. Many workers have mixed feelings about the outcome. They feel that they after all got something, but that they could have got much more if the strike had continued. In fact, the mobilisation around the strike grew as the strike went on. The outcome has strengthened the bitterness against the TUC-leaders and especially the Labour Party prime minister, Nyrup Rasmussen. But interestingly, the bitterness against the employers is bigger. This is different to 1985. At that time most workers were angry on the government but said that the strike wasn't against the employers. This time many workers feel that the employers provoked the strike and were the main obstacle in reaching some kind of agreement. This is important as many workplaces right now are facing local negotiations around payment, and I expect—and the employers expect it too—that this will result in a number of local strikes and employers giving in to workers' demands.

The most important outcome of the strike is probably standing ahead of us. Next year there will be negotiations in the public labour market. Especially the teachers are facing very difficult negotiations as the employers have said that they want to attack working hours, increase the number of pupils in each class and attack the teachers' union's monopoly in teaching. Two other groups in the public sector have been amongst the most militant groups in the nineties—nurses and postal workers—and they are also part of the negotiations next year. This years' strikes have certainly taught them a lesson.

I may be proven wrong in suggesting that the strike is over for now—but I can't see anything which indicates any continuation. But anyhow the strike has put issues like class and class struggle back on the agenda. During the last few months the whole idea of Denmark as a special kind of consensus society has got a number of blows which will be very difficult to repair.

This spring has in fact been one of the most exciting periods for years. Last year we had no big strikes, no big movements around anything at all. Politics was really very shitty. From March till now this year we had first a general election which the left wing (including the Labour Party) won despite all predictions—this sent the right wing parties into crisis with leaders resigning and internal fights—at the same time we had a strike movement on high schools, which for a short while numbered over fifty percent of all high schools—the term strike was used by high school students themselves—and now we have had this general strike. The background for this change can in fact be found in an ideological change during the last year away from market economy and more talking of solidarity and so on. Now this change is beginning to materialise

Martin Johansen
tlf: +45 35 37 65 91