Industrial relations and social dialogue

Denmark: Latest developments in working life Q3 2019

The government inviting social partners to discuss a new retirement policy, the implementation of the Work–Life Balance Directive, and a strike at Copenhagen Airport are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Denmark in the third quarter of 2019.

New government engages with social partners on retirement policy

The retirement policy was a hotly debated issue in the run up to the general election on 5 June. The Social Democrats suggested that some groups of workers should have the right to retire earlier than other groups. They did not specify which groups should benefit from this right, but said that the policy was meant to target vulnerable workers and those suffering from burn out.

While the Social Democrats achieved victory in the general election and formed a new government, they have not yet defined the new retirement scheme. However, they have made it clear that any decisions will involve tripartite discussions with the social partners. Peter Hummelgaard Thomsen, Minister of Employment, therefore, invited the confederations in the private sector to tripartite talks (the Danish Trade Union Confederation (FH) and the Confederation of Danish Employers (DA)).

The social partners welcomed the invitation, but with different reactions. The FH said that it is looking forward to the tripartite dialogue and that it is important to give the most vulnerable and burned-out workers the right to leave the labour market early. [1] The DA fears that the right to early retirement will contribute to labour shortages, especially if the scheme includes skilled workers (since employers already find it hard to recruit enough skilled workers). [2]

Fresh approach to parental leave directive

Since the adoption of the European Commission’s Work–Life Balance Directive (COM/2017/0253 final), the question of how to distribute parental leave between parents has been subject to public debate.

In an interview on 24 August, Minister for Gender Equality Mogens Jensen said that Denmark would seek dispensation when it came to implementing the directive. In Denmark, fathers already have the right to take paternity leave, but they must share the 32 weeks of paid parental leave with their partners and fathers only have two weeks earmarked for them. The new directive earmarks a larger share of parental leave to fathers.

On 29 August, the minister retracted his initial statement and confirmed that Denmark would implement the directive. [3] He called on the social partners to discuss how to integrate the directive into Danish law and collective agreements. [4]

Strike at Copenhagen Airport ruled contrary to collective agreement

On 5 September, the baggage workers at SAS Ground Handling (SGH) in Copenhagen Airport took part in a work stoppage. The workers are members of the local branch of the largest Danish trade union, the United Federation of Danish Workers (3F). After the baggage workers repeated their work stoppage on 11 September, [5] SGH took the striking workers to the Danish Labour Court. The court ruled that the work stoppages contravened the collective agreement in force between SGH and 3F. According to the ruling, the workers were given daily penalties for the working days lost.

The reason for the strikes was that a temporary agency worker at SGH had refused to become a member of 3F despite being asked several times and had faced significant backlash over that decision. A tape-recording containing threats from the leaders of the local branch of 3F was leaked to the press and their actions were denounced by Henrik Bay-Clausen, chairperson of the branch. [6] However, he also said that it was common practice for workers to join the local union, which negotiates employee pay and working conditions with the employer. The president of 3F strongly dissociated himself from the strikes and, in particular, the way in which the temporary agency worker had been treated.


The tripartite discussions about a retirement scheme are expected to draw the most attention in the coming months. The new Social Democratic government has long signalled that it prefers a differentiated retirement age that takes the ability of employees into consideration, although the employer organisations are strongly against the idea. The opposition in parliament is also reluctant to accept the government’s idea and has asked to see a concrete proposal soon. The main question – and one that also concerns the trade unions – is how to establish which industries will qualify for early retirement.


  1. ^ FH (2019), Hummelgaard vil investere i lønmodtagerne , 12 September.
  2. ^ DA (2019), Tidligere pension kan trække rutinerede hænder ud af arbejdsmarkedet , 12 April.
  3. ^ Politiken (2019), Mogens Jensen ændrer mening om øremærket barsel , 28 August.
  4. ^ DR (2019), Minister i ko-vending om barsel: Bøjer sig for EU-krav , 29 August.
  5. ^ Politiken (2019), Bagageansatte strejker igen i Københavns Lufthavn , 11 September.
  6. ^ DR (2019), 3F tager afstand fra ny chikane-sag fra lufthavnen: Mobning er uacceptabelt , 26 September.

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