LO wants new industrial relations structure

It was reported in August 1999 that the LO trade union confederation wants to break with Denmark's 100-year-old tradition of the employers' right to direct and divide the work. This proposal - which takes a surprisingly offensive approach - has not yet been finalised by the LO executive committee. According to the reported proposal, LO seeks a revision of the basic agreement which determines the rules of the labour market.

The Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen i Danmark, LO) reportedly wants to change the fundamental structure of Danish industrial relations, according to a proposal which is still before the confederation's executive committee for approval. It seeks the abolition of the employers' right to direct and divide the work, enshrined in the basic agreement (hovedaftalen) with the Danish Employers' Confederation (Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening, DA) which determines the fundamental rules of the labour market, as well as a wider revision of the agreement. The background to this proposal, entitled Welfare is an obligation, is that LO wants greater flexibility in industrial relations, whereby employees and employer at the individual workplace level would enter into a contract which determines the quantity of work the employees have to perform and the payment for this work. It is stated in the introduction to the proposal that "this contract should also deal with the working environment, social considerations, the division of profits etc. Accordingly, it would be up to the wage earners collectively to direct and divide the work and the payment".

The introduction, which is a part of a larger, not yet published, policy statement from LO concerning the welfare state, can only be characterised as taking a surprisingly offensive approach, and should be taken with a grain of salt until it is published. It can be seen as nothing less than a "declaration of war" against the basic agreement and the employers, if the wording is taken at face value. The realisation of the proposal would demand a change in the basic agreement between LO and DA, which presupposes that the parties agree. It must be anticipated that DA will resist a proposal which makes inroads into the managerial prerogative which was acknowledged by LO when the first basic agreement, the "September compromise", was concluded exactly 100 years ago (DK9908140F), and which still constitutes the basis of the regulation of relations between the parties. This would not mean that the employers oppose a high degree of worker participation, which on the contrary is more and more common, but that they would refuse to renounce the right of companies to direct and divide the work when employers consider it necessary. The result of LO's proposal would presumably at most be an adjustment of current provisions, in which the involvement of the employees in management would be emphasised. This would probably be the extent to which LO and DA could come to an agreement.

Since the news of the introduction to the LO proposal was published in the Berlingske Tidende newspaper on 20 August 1999, neither LO nor DA has wanted to make any comments on its contents.

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