Merger results in new union for public sector employees

In June 2007, an important merger took place between two trade union cartels in the public sector. The decision of the Association of Danish State Employees’ Organisations and the Danish Confederation of Municipal Employees to join forces has resulted in a new large joint organisation for public sector employees. The new organisation has been named the Organisation of Public Employees in Denmark.

On 21 June 2007, a new collective organisation was established for public sector employees in Denmark. The Association of Danish State Employees’ Organisations (Statsansattes Kartel, StK) and the Danish Confederation of Municipal Employees (Det Kommunale Kartel, DKK) have merged to form a joint organisation, which was named the Organisation of Public Employees in Denmark (Offentligt Ansattes Organisationer, OAO).

OAO membership

The new organisation has around 434,000 members distributed among 32 trade unions, most of which were members of both StK and DKK. Before the merger, StK represented 70,000 employees across 30 trade unions in the state sector and DKK had 14 affiliated unions with 365,000 members employed in the municipalities and regions.

Not all public sector employees are organised in OAO. The organisation mostly covers blue-collar and white-collar workers, and the more influential unions in OAO thus also belong to the affiliated Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen i Danmark, LO).

Background to merger

The merger came about as a result of a structural reform in the public sector, which was implemented in Denmark on 1 January 2007 and represents the most important reorganisation of public sector tasks in 35 years.

The reform included the following measures:

  • a large-scale redistribution of core tasks between the three territorial levels – state, counties/regions and municipalities;
  • a reduction of the number of municipalities from 271 to 98 and the abolishment of the 14 counties, which have been replaced by five regions;
  • a reduction in the number of territorial levels that have the right to impose taxes from three to two such levels, as the regional level no longer has this authority.

Changes in the distribution of tasks have had an impact on all three levels of the public sector and this also affects the trade unions, which in some cases have got a new public employer organisation as a counterpart (DK0701039I). The tasks carried out up to now by the municipalities in the field of taxation and debt collection will be handed over to the state, bringing both of these areas of work under the sole responsibility of the state. Taxation has traditionally been one of the core tasks of the municipalities but they will maintain citizen service centres in cooperation with the new state tax centres.

Furthermore, in the spring of 2007, the social partners representing the state, the municipalities and the regions signed a so-called ‘quality reform’ concerning the development of the public sector.

Leadership roles

The former president of StK, Peter Waldorf, highlighted these factors as the main reasons for the decision to merge, commenting:

The structural reform and the quality reform have contributed to putting a focus on the public sector. There is a lot at stake and we think that the new organisation will provide us with a stronger basis for influencing the discussion…A joint organisation will be better able to handle the challenges and maintain the interests of the members.

In fact, Mr Waldorf has been appointed Vice-President of OAO, while the former president of the larger DKK, Dennis Kristensen, has become President of the new organisation.

Moreover, OAO has two bargaining committees respectively for the state and for the municipalities and regions.

Carsten Jørgensen, FAOS

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