Unions and employers set out demands for public sector bargaining round

Spring 2002 will see the negotiation of new collective agreements in the Danish public sector and in November 2001 the parties set out their demands and positions. The trade unions' demands appear to be rather 'traditional'- notably increased real wages, linking of public sector wages to private sector pay developments, and more 'special holidays'. The public employers are demanding more flexibility in working hours, a reduction of the part-time work scheme for older workers, and greater importance for decentralised negotiations.

In the spring of 2002, the employers' organisations and trade unions in the Danish public sector will renegotiate the current three-year collective agreements concluded in 1999 (DK9903114F). If the social partners conclude two-year agreements, the public sector bargaining cycle will again be in line with the trend-setting private sector, which will be renegotiating its four-year agreements concluded in 2000 (DK0002167F) in 2004. Within the public sector, the negotiations take place on two levels: for the central government sector and for the county/municipality sector. At both levels, the negotiations start centrally and take place between federations. Later, the individual organisations, such as the Danish Nurses' Organisation (Dansk Sygeplejeråd, DSR), negotiate with the employers. In November 2001, the social partners, as is traditional, presented their demands and positions for the spring 2002 negotiations.

Central government participants and issues

For the central government sector, it is the trade unions' joint bargaining organisation, the Danish Central Federation of State Employees (Centralorganisationernes Fællesudvalg, CFU) - a 'federation of federations' including all wage groups – that negotiates with the national employer, the Ministry of Finance (Finansministeriet). At a time characterised by the prospects of future labour shortages, the Ministry of Finance wants to introduce various measures to counteract this tendency. First of all, it wants to abolish the possibility of part-time work for older workers between the age of 55 and 60 years and, furthermore, to raise the age limit for entering into voluntary leave schemes for older workers from 60 to 62 years. Second, the Ministry of Finance wants to increase the flexibility of working hours by introducing a so-called 'plus time scheme'. The new scheme would make it possible for the individual employee to work, for instance, 43 hours per week in a certain period (against the normal 37 hours per week) and then to reduce the number of working hours accordingly at a later point.

However, the state employees section of the Union of Commercial and Clerical Employees in Denmark (Handels- og kontorfunktionærernes Forbund/Stat, HK/Stat) - a member of the Association of Danish State Employees' Organisations (Statsansattes Kartel, StK) and therefore also of CFU - takes a rather sceptical view of both proposals. The president of HK/Stat, Peter Waldorff, who is also the chair of CFU, says: 'In my opinion it is an attempt to obtain overtime work at a lower price than today.' He also expresses concern about whether the 'plus time scheme' will lead to increased pressure on individual employees. For the State Public Servants' Trade Union (Statstjenestemændenes Centralorganisation, CO II) and StK, the main goal in bargaining is to obtain the largest possible general pay and pension rises - in other words an increase in real wages. Furthermore, the current regulation of pay in the public sector, whereby it by and large follows the pay trend in the private sector, should be continued, and a sixth week of annual leave, or at least two more 'special holidays' (days of leave which can be exchanged for cash if the employee wishes), is a top priority.

Equal pay and 'welfare contract' on county/municipality agenda

In the county/municipality sector, the unions' demands are fully in line with those in the central government sector. Here, bargaining takes place between the local government employers - the National Association of Local Authorities in Denmark (Kommunernes Landsforening, KL) and the Danish Federation of County Councils (Amtsrådsforeningen, ARF), together with the municipalities of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg and the Copenhagen Hospital Corporation (Hovedstadens Sygehusfællesskab, HS) - and, on the other hand, the Association of Local Government Employees' Organisations (Kommunale Tjenestemænd og Overenskomstansatte, KTO) which coordinates and manages the negotiations on behalf of the 640,000 employees employed in the counties and the municipalities.

A top priority of the Danish Nurses' Organisation, of the strongest members of the Confederation of Salaried Employees and Civil Servants in Denmark (Funktionærernes og Stastjenestemændenes Fællesråd, FTF), is general wage increases and the linking of private and public sector wages. In addition, an equal pay project is on the agenda, aiming at equalising the gender pay gap between the public and the private sector. The public sector employs more women than the private sector. Moreover, the Danish Nurses' Organisation stresses that a larger part of the overall wage sum should be allocated to decentralised negotiations between the employers and the individual professional groups.

Likewise, the Danish Confederation of Municipal Employees (Det Kommunale Kartel, DKK) - part of KTO and the negotiating federation for about 400,000 blue- and white-collar workers employed in the public sector who are members of the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen i Danmark, LO) - demands more spare time (two extra 'special holidays') and higher wages. Another demand is a 'welfare contract' between the government, the employers and the unions, expressing consensus about how the economic framework set by the central negotiations will be transformed into personnel policy initiatives in municipalities and counties. The proposal was welcomed by the finance minister in the Social Democrat-led government then in office, Mogens Lykketoft. In line with the aims of this 'welfare contract', the president of DKK, Poul Winckler, wants guidelines for the contracting-out of public services under the authority of counties and municipalities to be laid down in the collective agreements. Mr Winckler does not believe that the counties and the municipalities observe the rules for outsourcing or contracting out.

Consolidation of new pay system

KL, the trend-setting employers' association in the local government sector, set out its general goals for the 2002 collective bargaining round in May 2001. It first goal is the consolidation and extension of the new, more decentralised and flexible, public sector pay system, known as 'New pay' (Ny Løn) (DK9705110F), by providing extra funds for decentralised negotiations. Furthermore, it demands simplification in this area, for instance by reducing the number of rules to what is absolutely necessary and by making sure that the rules are written in a language everybody can understand.


At present, the social partners' demands for the 2002 public sector bargaining round do not reveal any large surprises. The sixth week of annual leave in the form of five extra 'special holidays' was introduced in the private sector labour market in 2000. As previously mentioned, the private sector negotiations set the trend for those in the public sector, as reflected by, for example, the setting of wages in the public sector so that they follow the wage developments in the private labour market.

After the general election on 20 November 2001 it is uncertain whether the unions' proposed 'welfare contract' will gain support in the new liberal-conservative government. However, the possibility still exists, since the liberal and conservative parties during the election campaign stressed the importance of improving public services, especially within the health sector. One way of doing this could be by securing a larger consensus between demands and possibilities at the different levels of negotiation. The new government was due to be presented on 27 November and any new division of ministries and possible privatisation plans will naturally have an impact on the coming negotiations. Furthermore, the replacement of the present finance minister might lead to changes in some of the demands. For instance, the Conservative Party (Det Konservative Folkeparti), which is part of the new government, is against the earlier proposal from the Ministry of Finance to reduce the part-time scheme for older workers. The Conservative Party instead wants to ensure a gradual transition to retirement for older workers.

The first meeting between the public sector social partners is due to take place on 18 December 2001, when they will set out their different demands and visions. (Cecilie Wehner and Carsten Jørgensen, FAOS).

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