Controversy over outsourcing of public tasks

In August 1999, more than 400 Danish municipal healthcare employees in Frederiksborg county took unofficial strike action against efforts to outsource their work to private companies. They were angered by the proposed move, given earlier retrenchments and an agreement on further training to make the services concerned more efficient. The LO trade union confederation believes that the number of public tasks which are being put out for tender has been increasing excessively.

Around 450 hospital orderlies and cleaners at three hospitals in the county of Frederiksborg went on strike on 16 August 1999 in protest against a proposal by the county council - headed by county mayor,Lars Lykke Rasmussen- that all hospital orderly and cleaning work should be put out to tender by private companies. The unofficial strike was a culmination of a long period of dissatisfaction with statements from counties and municipalities in the metropolitan area that they will outsource a large number of public tasks to the private sector to achieve budget cuts. The Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen Danmark, LO) organisation in the Copenhagen area stated that the outsourcing plans indicated disdain for the municipal and county employees and their performance over many years, and warned directly that labour disputes might occur.

The 450 or so members of the Danish Trade Union of Public Employees (Forbundet af Offentligt Ansatte, FOA) and the National Union of Female Workers (Kvindeligt Arbejderforbund i Danmark, KAD) at the three hospitals had previously agreed to retrenchments in the area of hospital orderly and cleaning services, and felt infuriated that the outsourcing plans went straight to negotiations at a county council meeting without being debated in the relevant cooperation committee beforehand. As part of the process of making the hospital orderly and cleaning departments more efficient, the employees had already agreed a cross-disciplinary project which was intended to make the traditional demarcations of work more elastic. During the project, the employees have received public contributions for further training, and KAD stated that both the training efforts and the public contributions would be completely wasted if the tasks of the employees were put out to tender.

After a two-days of strike, the service staff resumed work at the hospitals in the county on 18 August and the mayor promised to remove the question of the invitation to submit tenders from the current agenda and instead return it for a debate in the cooperation committee.

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