Social Democrats propose obligatory supplementary training funds
In June 1999, the Social Democrats - the largest party in Denmark's coalition government - suggested the creation by companies of obligatory supplementary training funds. The idea has met opposition from employers, which call it an attack on the collective agreement system and on managerial rights. Trade unions have sympathy with the idea, but fear that the extra expense for employers may become a factor in future collective bargaining rounds.
A suggestion from the Social Democrats, the largest party in the coalition government, on obligatory supplementary training funds has created dissatisfaction among employers and trade unions. The Social Democrats' proposal, issued in June 1999, takes as its point of departure the fact that the government has done a great deal to improve education for children and young people, and now wishes to make basic reforms in connection with adult education and supplementary training courses.
The reasons behind the call for reform include the coming decline in the number of children born and increase in the number of older people on the labour market, which make the ability to provide high-quality adult education and supplementary training schemes absolutely decisive for the welfare state of the future. The Social Democrats believe that the "Danish model" has so far helped to secure this development through collective bargaining, but fear that management and labour will not be able to maintain this tradition due, among other items, to ideological obstacles. The Social Democrats therefore now suggest that all companies should pay a fixed percentage of paybill into specific funds, to be distributed for supplementary training purposes by management and the local cooperation committee (samarbejdsudvalg) or shop stewards. The cooperation committee or shop stewards would have the right to override management's suggestions. There would have to be documentation in the company's annual accounts to show that the money in question was spent on supplementary training. If the money were not spent, or the rules were not adhered to, then companies would have to refund it in the form of extra tax payments. The Social Democrats' labour market spokesperson, Poul Erik Dyrlund, acknowledges that many companies have already established supplementary training funds, but the party want this to apply to all companies. Its education policy spokesperson, Hans Peter Baadsgaard, believes that companies should finance more of those courses that are related to the individual workplace.
Reactions from the parties involved have been characterised by scepticism. The director of the Danish Employers' Confederation (Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening, DA), Ole Kragh, has called the suggestion an attack on the collective agreement system and on managerial rights. He is also worried that in practice the proposal would become much too bureaucratic, lead to enforced training, and help to undermine the motivation behind companies' education policies. He suggests instead an improvement in the efficiency of the existing system.
Harald Børsting, secretary at the Danish Federation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen i Danmark, LO), has declared himself to be in agreement with the Social Democrats' overall objectives and believes that supplementary training funds could help to strengthen democracy in companies. However, he fears that the suggestion will prove a hindrance to collective bargaining in coming years, as companies may demand wage restraint in connection with making payments to such funds.