Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9804281327.A25256-0100000@sheppard>
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 13:13:51 -0400
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: Tom Patterson <ac119@FREENET.TORONTO.ON.CA>
Subject: 500.000 on strike in Denmark (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 14:33:00 +0200
From: Internat. Pressekorrespondenz <>
Subject: 500.000 on strike in Denmark

>From Tue Apr 28 13:03:53 1998
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 12:56:19 +0200
Subject: article on strikes in Denmark

500.000 in conflict at the private labour market in Denmmark

By Anders Lange and Katrine Toft Mikkelsen, on behalf of Sociastisk Arbejderparti, 28 April 1998

Most of the private labour market in Denmark on Monday the 27th of April got thrown into the biggest conflict since the big strikes in 1985.

The majority of the workers voted No to the results of the negotiation between employers and the trade unions and set aside the leaders of the most trade unions in industrial, transport and construction sectors.

In Denmark each sector trade union negotiates their own agreements but the conciliation officer can decide to count the votes for all areas in one, if the employers and the trade unions wish it—which they did in this case.

It is a procedure which is meant to make it more difficult to turn down the result and start a conflict. The manouvre failed because there was this time a big mobilisation and anger among shop stewards and workers in the biggest and most central unions: Metal, SiD (unskilled labourers) and KAD (the womens union), which meant that the members in these unions have drawn, for instance, the workers in the graphic industri into the conflict, even though they voted yes to the agreement.

There has been a nationwide campaign for a No with basis in the transport sector, the metal, industrial and the construction sectors. This campaign succeded in getting enough people to vote No to reject the agreement. Minimum of 40% of the trade-union members must vote for the result to be rejected by simple majority. Otherwise minimum of 25% of all members must vote No.

The main reason for the rejection of the agreement was that a lot of workers supported the demand for one week's extra holiday paid by the employers (which would bring the holiday up to 6 weeks a year). The agreement did not even come close to this.

In the construction sector the workers got 1 1/2 extra day off at a maximum of 100 Dkr. pr. hour, which is below the average pay per hour. In the metalindustri the leaders of the union settled for a day off on christmas eve, where a lot of people already have a holiday and which only counts as a holiday 5 years out of 7 because of the weekend.

These results stirred a lot of anger because the Danish economy is one of the best-functioning in Europe and many workers have been modest in their demnads since 1985 and until a few years ago. The last few years the pay has risen because they have been negotiated on a decentralised basis in the industral sector. Working hours and minimum wages are negotiated centrally, and now the workers wanted improvements here as well.

Another reason for the rejection of the agreement is that many wanted to protest against the circus that is going on every second year when the agreements are renewed. Every night for about 3 months one can see very serious middle-aged men on the television screen explaining how difficult it is and then they end up with such a bad result. People feel put out of influence.

The third reason is that many trade union leaders feel the need to show that the're needed. The apparatus of the trade unions is under pressure from below since more and more businesses prefer to negotiate on a decentralized basis with the local shop steward. At the same time the trade unions are under pressure from above as directives from the EU are being implemented into the agreements. These are not being negotiated, and the free scope of the leaders is thereby being dimnished.

Finally the rules for voting on the result of the agreemnts have been changed, which does not mean that they have become democratic. But it is easier to reject an agreement, which have widened the free scope for the progressive part of the trade union.

Finally there is a lot of people who have protested against the fact that the employers in the industrial sector prevented negotiations for the transport and construction sectors. It is a centralized control which many people fail to understand: why should the employers of the industrial sector interfere with the negotiations for transport and construction? It also seems unlogical since the voting on the results is counted together.

The official Denmark finds it hard to accept that the agreement was rejected. The coverage in the media, etc., brings back memories from the 2nd of june 1992 when Denamrk voted no to the Maastricht treaty (that was also the year when we won the European championship in football, but that is a different story). The reactions from leading politicians and in the press was what went wrong?, How could they do that?, etc. This is pretty interesting since there is going to be a referendum on the Amsterdam-treaty on the 28th of May.

That is a difficult situation for the social-democratic primeminister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, since a lot of the socialdemocratic voters are against a (further) integration in the EU. Simultanously there is a lot of voters who oppose the EU in protesting the fact that the entire establishment, i.e., leading politicians, the press, the employers, the leaders of the trade unions etc., are pro-EU.

If the trade unions and the employer organisations don't find a solution and get to a new agreement, which looks unlikely at the moment, the government will have to intervene. This could possibly happen in the beginning or in the middle of the month of May. Then the 1st of May will be passed and the conflict will have been going on for some time. But it can't happen too late because the government can't delay with neither a conflict or protests against government intervention too close to the referendum on the 28th of May.

At the same time it is crucial to the employers that the solution to the conflict doesn't cost more than the agrrement that was been reached before, and it is crucial to the workers to get started on the 6th week of the holiday. Otherwise it can be very difficult to end the conflict.

In this situation the progressive part of the trade unions are working to get an active conflict. Nationwide days of action, demonstrations and meetings for shop stewards are some of the proposed activities.

Tuesday the 28th of April is the first big demonstration in Copenhagen. On wednesday there is a nationwide shop stewards meeting in Odense. We will send out further information as the conflict progresses. Feel free to contact us for any further information.

Anders Lange og Katrine Toft Mikkelsen

On behalf of Sociastisk Arbejderparti
Tlph: 31 39 79 48
Fax: 35 37 32 17