Confederation of Danish Industries wants flexible working hours

In September 1999, the Confederation of Danish Industries (DI) highlighted the eagerness of its member companies to make more use of working time flexibility. The industry sector's current collective agreement allows for the averaging out of weekly hours over a year, if this is agreed locally by management and employees. This requirement for a local agreement has contributed to the fact that only 15% of companies have introduced such a scheme, according to DI. CO-Industri, DI's trade union counterpart, disagrees.

In September 1999, the Confederation of Danish Industries (Dansk Industri, DI) held a series of meetings to highlight the wish of Danish industrial enterprises to institute working time flexibility in order to enable employees to work more or less than the standard 37 hours per week at certain times of the year. During the spring 1998 collective bargaining round in industry, employers prioritised improved possibilities to institute more flexible working hours in companies, and succeeded in realising this demand. The new collective agreement made it possible to average out the 37-hour week over a 52-week reference period (DK9803158F). In practice, this means that the enterprises with large seasonal variations in demand are able to let their employees work more hours in the peak season and fewer during the rest of the year. However, the agreement made the introduction of such arrangements dependent on a local agreement between management and employees.

According to a survey published by DI in September 1999, despite the increasing interest among employers, only 15% of industrial enterprises have so far made use of the possibility of varying weekly working hours. "It is a good beginning and the interest of flexibility is present," stated the head of DI's collective agreement department, Anders Søndergaard Larsen. However, according to Mr Larsen, the requirement for a local agreement limits the spread of working time flexibility schemes, because in some enterprises employees are sceptical about the employer's wishes.

Aksel Bloch Simonsen, an official of the Central Federation of Industrial Employees (Central Organisationen af Industriansatte, CO-Industri) union cartel does not recognise the picture of the situation painted by DI. He says that it is only large enterprises such as Bang & Olufsen and Lego which have concluded agreements on working time flexibility. In several cases, CO-Industri has been called into mediation meetings at smaller enterprises because management has put aside the requirement for local agreements and demanded that employees accept a smaller pay increase if they will not accept working time flexibility. The sectoral collective agreement gives employees the right to veto new working time arrangements, says Co-Industri, and pay and working hours must not be linked in local negotiations. CO-Industri's leader, Verner Elgaard, believes, however, that employees are interested in variable working, and that if companies establish a dialogue on working time, many more employees will participate because they too can also see the advantage of flexibility.

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