Privatisation leads to disputes between unions

Privatisation and contracting out of public services and a freeze on the employment of public servants have blurred the previous demarcation lines between Danish trade unions. Traditionally public sector union have begun to organise more private sector employees, causing discord and demarcation disputes in the LO confederation. Autumn 1999 saw new developments in areas such as postal services, bus transport and the railways.

Given an increasing amount of contracting out of public services and the privatisation of state-owned corporations, and after a freeze on the new employment of public servants which has so far lasted two years, it seems there is no future for trade unions in solely organising public servants and other employees in the public sector. The large public sector trade unions have drawn this lesson and have, so to speak, moved with their old members into the private sector, representing more and more private sector workers. This has caused discord within the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen i Danmark, LO) (DK9709129F).

Since October 1998, the Danish Postal Service Union (Dansk Postforbund) and Danish General Workers' Union (Specialarbejderforbundet i Danmark, SiD) have been discussing a merger. As a result of this, the Danish Postal Service Union started organising non-public servant postal delivery workers and sorters in the privatised postal company Post Danmark. The Danish Postal Service Union has traditionally organised only public servants in the postal service, whereas all the rest were organised by SiD. A meeting on 15 September 1999 between the parties and an "umpire", lawyer Lars Svenning Andersen, to discuss which union was to be entitled to negotiate the collective agreement for Post Danmark workers in future, ended without a result, though the parties characterised the meeting as constructive.

The Danish Federation of Public Sector Employees (Forbundet af Offentligt Ansatte, FOA) is also involved in a demarcation dispute. Throughout this century, the Trade Union of Transport Salaried Employees (Trafikfunktionærernes Fagforening) within FOA has organised publicly employed bus drivers in the Greater Copenhagen area. With the privatisation of the bus services, privatised drivers were, in accordance with the normal rules, to be transferred to SiD, which negotiates the collective agreement with the private bus companies. However, the Trade Union of Transport Salaried Employees, and consequently FOA, has instead continued to organise the drivers who are employed in the private sector. In October 1999, the Industrial Court is to rule on whether FOA should be granted bargaining rights vis-à-vis a private sector employer.

In 1995, HK/Stat, the state employees section of the Union of Commercial and Clerical Employees in Denmark (Handels- og Kontorfunktionærernes Forbund) launched the idea of organising all salaried employees in the public sector in a single trade union. This idea has now been abandoned. The privatisation of the large state employers, Danish State Railways (DSB), Tele Danmark (telecommunications) and Post Danmark and a general increase in invitations to tender for public sector services have been decisive for the shift in policy. HK/Stat, which is the largest trade union representing public sector employees, will now try to group workers from both the private and public sectors on a sectoral basis, in the transport sector for example. One step in this direction was taken at the beginning of September 1999, when HK/Stat entered into negotiations on admitting the 4,000 members of the Union of Railway Servants (Jernabaneforeningen), all of whom are public servants whose jobs have now been privatised, to a joint industry association within HK/Stat, together with 800 commercial and clerical workers employed by DSB and Combus (a private bus operator), among others. HK/Stat's president Peter Waldorff, who is behind the change of strategy, proposes that when the merger with the Union of Railway Servants is, as expected, finalised in spring 2000, a new resolution on the structure of the union is to be adopted at its sectoral congress in June 2000.

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