Footballers' union joins LO

In June 2004, the Danish Football Players' Association became a member union of the Confederation of Danish Trade Unions (LO). The context is a conflict between the union and football clubs over FIFA transfer rules. On 1 July, the union gave notice of a strike from 1 August, in which it will now receive support from LO.

On 18 June 2004, the executive committee of the Confederation of Danish Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen i Danmark, LO) decided to admit the Danish Football Players' Association (Spillerforeningen) (DK0107126N) as a member union. This means that the union will receive all the financial and professional support granted to LO affiliates, including sympathy action from other LO unions in the event of a strike. Subsequently, on 1 July the Danish Football Players' Association gave notice of industrial action from 1 August in connection with collective bargaining with employers represented by the Danish League Association (Divisionsforeningen). Normally, member unions of LO can first receive financial support after one year's membership, but in this case LO will make an exception.

The background to the Danish Football Players' Association joining LO goes back to December 2003, when the Danish League Association gave notice of a lock-out of the players after controversy over new transfer rules for players under the age of 23 issued by football's world governing body, FIFA, which gives clubs the right to demand compensation for training and developing young players if these players are transferred to clubs in other countries after the expiry of their contracts. The Danish League Association claims that Danish players and clubs must follow these rules. The players' union, however, will not accept awarding this right to clubs and wants to follow the normal rules of the Danish labour market, with its members influencing their own working conditions like other workers, instead of following a dictate from abroad. In January 2004, the planned lock-out was declared unlawful by an arbitrator, because notice was not given in accordance with the rules (DK0401104F).

An industrial conflict would hit the Danish Football Players' Association hard since it has limited resources, and when negotiations broke off around the lock-out threat, the union's executive committee sought a solution. The answer it came up with was to join a union confederation - which turned out to be LO. Although football players may not have much in common with groups such as engineering, slaughterhouse and childcare workers, the union decided to join LO because of the wide influence of this confederation. Furthermore, professional football players arguably have even less in common with the public sector unions affiliated to the Confederation of Salaried Employees and Civil Servants in Denmark (Funktionærerne og Tjenestemændenes Fællesråd, FTF) - the alternative confederation - than they do with other private sector employees. Besides LO also has an affiliate the Danish Artists Union (Dansk Artist Forbund), which organises musicians and artists.

At a press conference on 18 June, the president of LO, Hans Jensen, emphasiaed the good work of the Danish Football Players' Association in organising players. The union has 650 members and, though more may join after LO affiliation, it will be the smallest union in the LO 'family'. Commentators suggest that the symbolic value of its new affiliate is worth more to LO than the increase in membership fees, especially at a time of falling membership within LO.

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