TKF and Dansk Metal to merge

In March 2003, members of the Union of Telecommunication Workers (TFK) approved plans for a merger with the larger Union of Danish Metalworkers (Dansk Metal) in a ballot. A ballot among Dansk Metal members will take place in April, but approval seems a formality. TFK will become a section within Dansk Metal, and hopes to recruit other information technology workers, who are currently represented by a variety of unions.

On 13 March 2003, the Union of Telecommunication Workers (Telekommunikationsforbundet, TKF) announced that a comfortable majority of its members had voted in a ballot in favour of a merger with the larger Union of Danish Metalworkers (Dansk Metal). The outcome of the ballot had been awaited with great anxiety since the leaders of the two unions agreed on the basis for a merger in October 2002, after thorough preparations. TFK is the smaller of the two unions and the decision of its members was thus crucial - it is most unlikely that the members of the larger Dansk Metal would vote against a merger which would make the union even bigger and if the merger has been accepted by the members of TKF. The ballot among members of Dansk Metal will take place in April 2003, but acceptance of the merger thus seems a formality. In the light of the failure of other attempted union mergers over the last two years (DK0111102N), the campaign was carefully prepared. TKF set up a website containing detailed information about the merger, which its members used extensively for debate and questions.

The leadership of TKF should be satisfied with this result of the ballot. The turn-out was 51% out of total of 10,414 members entitled to vote, which was quite high compared with other similar ballots. Of those participating, 4,301 voted in favour of the merger, corresponding to 81% of the votes cast.

Objective is one large IT union

TKF which is affiliated to the Confederation of Danish Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen i Danmark, LO) and the Association of Danish State Employees’ Organisations (Statsansattes Kartel, StK), has about 11,000 active members. Its members work in the fields of telecommunications and information technology (IT), mainly for the TDC company, formerly the state-owned Teledanmark. Dansk Metal, also an LO affiliate, has 109,000 members in metalworking and other industrial sectors.

Under the terms of the merger, TKF will become an independent section of Dansk Metal, with considerable independence. The vision for TKF’s leadership, in the longer term, is to establish a single organisation for the 50,000 or so IT workers in Denmark, who are presently organised in six different unions. As the IT sector initially only had a limited number of employees, before growing to its present large size, there was no union which organised only IT workers. This meant that IT workers stayed in the unions of which they were already members. In addition to TKF and Dansk Metal, many telecommunications and IT workers are members of: the service employees' section of the Union of Commercial and Clerical Employees (Handels- og Kontorfuntionærernes Forbund, HK/Service); the Danish Union of Electricians (Dansk El-forbund, DEF); the Danish Association of Professional Technicians (Teknisk Landsforbund, TL); and Prosa, which primarily organises computer programmers. In addition to these unions, all IT workers in the insurance sector are members of the National Insurance Workers’ Association (Danske Forsikringsfunktionærers Landsforening, DFL). The president of TKF has said that the merger between TKF and Dansk Metal should be seen as an open invitation to others to join.

Commentary

Many trade unions affiliated to LO have been fighting to retain their membership in recent years. Since 1990, LO has lost 90,000 members or about 7% of the total. For this reason alone, a growing IT section within the framework of Dansk Metal will be highly welcome for the union, given the declining level of industrial production in Denmark. A planned merger between DEF and Dansk Metal failed in 2001 due to rejection in a ballot by DEF members (DK0110101N) and a further attempt does not seem likely. However, Dansk Metal can hardly be interested in an independent IT union which would split from Dansk Metal. Thus a further merger of IT unions does not seem very likely unless a common independent union can be established. However, for now, TKF has referred only to ambitions to set up a joint organisation. To start with, this would mean that the other unions concerned should either permit a transfer of members to Dansk Metal or engage in a merger.

However, it seems highly unlikely that HK/Service would transfer its IT members to Dansk Metal. HK is a larger union and organises about 20,000 IT workers in the service sector, which is growing while industry is declining. IT workers belong as naturally, if not more so, in HK/Service as in Dansk Metal. It is mainly technicians which have a natural 'occupational affiliation' with Dansk Metal, while web-designers and computer specialists and employees in TDC's shops more naturally belong in HK. It should be mentioned in this connection that TKF, from the start, asked the other unions organising IT workers, except Prosa, about their interest in a merger. Dansk Metal was the only union that expressed an interest and had an organisational structure which TKF could benefit from. A merger with another small organisation, such as the Danish Association of Professional Technicians (TL), would not been radical enough. One of the problems for TKF is that it is quite dependent on membership at the telecommunications company, TDC. Becoming a new IT and telecommunicatons section within Dansk Metal will give a broader recruitment base and the possibility of attracting more members. However, as the situation looks now, there is no immediate prospect of a single organisation for all IT and telecommunications workers. (Carsten Jørgensen, FAOS).

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