New union holds first congress

In September 2004, a merger between the General Workers’ Union (SiD) and the National Union of Female Workers (KAD) became a reality when the new organisation, known as 3F, held its inaugural congress. The new union has 375,000 members and is Denmark's largest.

In a ballot held in May/June 2004, the members of the General Workers’ Union (Specialarbejderforbundet i Danmark, SiD) and the National Union of Female Workers (Kvindeligt Arbejderforbund, KAD) overwhelmingly approved a merger proposed by the leaderships of the two trade unions (DK0406103F). The two unions, both mainly organising unskilled workers, are affiliated to the Confederation of Danish Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen i Danmark, LO). Before the merger ballot, there had been a long and well-prepared campaign aimed at ensuring that the members of the two unions (both skilled and unskilled) were well informed about the process (DK0211105F). The unions' leaderships were keen to avoid a 'no' vote, not least in the light of several recent failed union mergers (DK0111102N and DK0110101N).

The new union is called Fagligt Fælles Forbund, abbreviated to 3F (an official English translation of the name is yet to be announced). It has 370,000 members and is thus the largest union in Denmark. On 24 September 2004, 3F held its inaugural congress, attended by 1,250 delegates. Officially, the new union starts operations on 1 January 2005.

SiD held its last congress in early September. Its president, Poul Erik Skov Christensen, told delegates that in around five years' time there will be fewer than 10 unions affiliated to LO (there are currently around 20). Already, it seems that 3F will grow in 2005. The Union of Restaurant Employees (Restaurationsbranchens Forbund, RBF) has asked to join, while the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Nærings- og Nydelsesmiddelarbejder Forbundet, NNF) and the Danish Union of Wood, Industrial and Building Workers (Forbundet Træ-Industri-Byg, TIB) have been invited to negotiate over a possible merger. TIB was involved in the first round of merger talks with SiD and KAD, but backed out after some hesitation. The reason - as in other cases - was that its members fear losing their distinctive occupational profile, as the new merged organisation comprises unions mainly for unskilled workers.

As one of its first initiatives, 3F opened up the possibility of providing supplementary unemployment insurance - a possibility that SiD has earlier opposed. The president of the new union, Mr Skov Christensen (formerly of SiD), has made a number of 'EU-friendly' statements that contrast with earlier SiD pronouncements. 3F has stated that it will take a strong position on equal opportunities issues and on and continuing and advanced training as a countermeasure to the 'globalisation' of jobs. It is expected that the new union with take more of a 'middle course' than its two constituent unions did. It is also anticipated that it will obtain a degree of political influence, given its size.

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