Railway union merges with HK

In May 2000, the Danish Railways Association (Jernbaneforeningen) decided to merge with the state employees' sector of the country's largest trade union, the Union of Commercial and Clerical Employees (HK). The move reflects the fact that the public servants represented by the Association are facing uncertainty, as an increasing number of former core activities of the DSB state railway are split up and the employees are transferred to private firms with different collective agreements.

At an extraordinary meeting of delegates on 28 May 2000, the Railways Association (Jernbaneforeningen) decided to merge with HK/Stat, the state employees' sector organisation within the Union of Commercial and Clerical Employees (Handels- og Kontorfunktionærernes Forbund, HK). This merger - which was the result of more than one year's negotiations - comes into effect on 1 June 2000. From that date, the members of the Railroad Association - together with the present members of HK/Stat in the state transport sector - are members of the new sectoral unit attached to HK/Stat. The merger also comprises the Staff Union in Air Transport (Luftfartsvæsenets Personaleforbund) which itself merged with the Railroad Association on 1 May 2000. The new sectoral unit will be called the Sectoral Unit Traffic and Railroads (Brancheafdelingen Trafik og Jernbane) and will have just over 5,000 members (both public servants and salaried employees) working in enterprises, board and agencies in the traffic sector.

The creation of a sectoral unit within a major trade union as a result of a merger is highly unusual in Denmark. The first example was in 1999 when a public servants' organisation, the Association of Postal and Giro Workers (Post- og Giroforbundet) merged with HK/Stat as a sectoral unit under the name Sectoral Unit Post Denmark (Brancheafdelingen Postdanmark). This merger took place as a consequence of the transformation of the Danish post service into a state-owned public limited company.

This was the model which the two parties had in mind when the Railways Association (which was also originally an association of public servants) and HK/Stat started negotiations, and they succeeded in achieving it. The Railways Association will unite with the HK railworkers' section, National Club DSB (Landsklubben DSB) and will, over a transitional period of 10 years, function as an association within the association. The Railways Association was formerly independent of the central union confederations, but a member of the bargaining cartel, the Association of Danish State Employees' Organisations (Statsansattes Kartel, StK) linked with the Confederation of Danish Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen i Danmark, LO). After the merger, the Railways Association is now a member of the family of unions affiliated to LO, though StK has lost a member organisation. In spite of the change of name and the merger with Denmark's largest union, HK, the Railways Association will not lose its former bargaining competences concerning members' pay and conditions. It will retain its members even though their employer is privatised.

Privatisations and divisions into agencies within Danish State Railways (Danske Statsbaner, DSB) and the general end of recruitment of staff with the status of public servants (TN0003402S) have led to important structural changes within the Railways Association and have also made the lives of its members less secure. In connection with the switch from the state sector to the private sector, the members will be moving into fields covered by different collective agreements, and the outsourcing of various DSB activities will continue. In May 2000, the parcels section of DSB (DSB Stykgods) was sold to the private company Danish Freight Carriers (Danske Fragtmænd). According to the Act on transfers of undertakings, the employees will remain covered by the existing collective agreement until the expiry of that agreement, whereafter a renegotiated collective agreement applying to the sector concerned will come into force. The future of the Railways Association thus demanded new thinking.

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