Danish collective bargaining round 2000 has initiated

Denmark's 2000 collective bargaining round opened formally on 28 November 1999, with the launch of talks over a new agreement for 40,000 shop assistants. The HK/Handel trade union wanted negotiations to conclude by Christmas, but the employers were in no hurry, and did not want the commerce sector to usurp the leading role in bargaining rounds traditionally taken by the industry sector.

On 28 November 1999, the 2000 Danish collective bargaining round formally began. At a marathon meeting, the Union of Commercial and Clerical Employees/Commerce (Handel- og Kontorfunktionærernes Forbund/Handel, HK/Handel) and the Danish Commerce and Service (Dansk Handel og Service, DH&S) employers' organisation opened bargaining over a new agreement covering 40,000 shop assistants. HK had prepared for swift negotiations, with an agreement before Christmas, but the employers were in no hurry. Within a day, it was evident that DH&S had no intentions of expediting a bargaining outcome, though the president of HK/Handel, Jørgen Hoppe, is still hoping for an early result. The parties were due to meet again shortly before Christmas, and Mr Hoppe believed that a result might be possible in early January 2000, when the decision-making bargaining committee meets.

Mr Hoppe opened the meeting on 28 November with a declaration of his eagerness to negotiate an agreement with a duration longer than the usual two years. This is traditionally the wish of the employers. It was especially in the areas of holidays and retirement provision that Mr Hoppe saw the advantages of a longer term for the collective agreement, but the employers were not tempted to speed up bargaining. What is more, it would have been unusual if the Danish Employers' Confederation (Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening, DA) had allowed the commerce sector to sign the first collective agreement and consequently influence the rest of the 2000 bargaining round. It has traditionally been the industry sector's task to take the lead and be the first to reach a collective agreement, and everybody - including Mr Hoppe - is aware of the fact. However, his attempt to take the lead brought the demands of HK/Handel in focus.

The primary goal of HK/Handel is to raise the minimum wage for shop assistants. This is a low-wage bargaining area, and even though the possibility of local wage negotiations on top of the sectoral agreement exists, it is rarely used. Another key issue is the working time rules related to Sunday work, which are topical in the light of possible amendments to the Shops Act. Furthermore, HK/Handel wants to negotiate additional days off, including so-called "special care days" (days off in addition to normal holiday) - similar to the provisions achieved by the other organisations in the private sector area covered by DA in 1998's agreements (DK9805168F) - as well as an increase in the occupational pension contribution.

DH&S is willing to negotiate a longer validity of only parts of the shop workers' agreement, and wants the main themes at the bargaining table to be training and education, and greater working time flexibility. Mr Hoppe's attempt to complete bargaining before Christmas 1999 is seen by the DHS president, Søren B Henriksen, as a misplaced attempt to break the solidarity between DA's member organisations. Furthermore, Mr Henriksen states that it is very important for DH&S that new rules concerning working hours do not give greater possibilities for flexible opening hours only to large enterprises.

The current agreement for shop assistants expires on 1 March 2000.

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