New job creation initiative proves successful

Denmark’s current employment situation is highly favourable, with almost full employment in the spring of 2007. The country’s high employment rate can partly be attributed to a new job creation initiative aimed at securing employment for redundant workers. One group of workers who have already benefited from such an initiative consists of the 1,500 abattoir workers who were made redundant during 2006, after the abattoir group Danish Crown closed its plants in Odense and Grindsted.

The Danish employment rate has reached its highest ever in the spring of 2007. While mass redundancies due to restructuring can be devastating news for the employees affected, a new job creation initiative has succeeded in securing employment for hundreds of workers made redundant. The initiative, which has been coined ‘operation workbusters’, consists of a group of women and men who dedicate their working day to finding jobs and setting up a ‘job bank’.

Redeployment of abattoir workers

In February 2006, the large abattoir Danish Crown announced the closure of its plant in the southern city of Odense due to internal restructuring, resulting in the loss of some 820 jobs. On 29 September 2006, Danish Crown subsequently closed its Grindsted plant, located in western Jutland, leading to a further 701 redundancies.

However, since the plants’ closure, 804 of the 820 abattoir workers from the former Odense plant have found new jobs, while only 120 workers of the 701 workers from the former Grindsted plant are still without employment or involved in continuing training. In relation to the latter group of workers, shop steward Tonny Rasmussen from the Danish Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Nærings- og Nydelsesmiddelarbejder Forbundet, NNF) and his colleague Kent Kaltoft, who together administer the workbusters job bank, remain optimistic. According to Mr Rasmussen: ‘We will have replacement jobs for nearly all in the rest-group before the job bank closes on 29 June 2007.’ Many jobs have already been set aside in the transport sector, woodwork industry or windmill industry, the latter of which is still a growing sector in Denmark. Other workers have secured employment at Danish Crown’s new and extensive multi-plant in Horsens, located on the east coast of Jutland.

Job creation initiative

The success of the innovative job creation initiative can partly be attributed to the financial support of close to €400,000, which was secured under the European Social Fund. The name of the campaign – ‘workbusters’ – aimed to sum up the initiative’s main mission: namely, to detect vacant jobs, overtime, extra work, work bottlenecks, cancelled vacations and workplaces experiencing growth.

The ‘workbusters’ message is spread in industrial channels through local and national radio and television. The campaign’s coordinators have also taken to the road in search of potential job opportunities. Moreover, a newsletter has been printed and sent to selected companies. After 10 months, 98% of the redundant employees from Odense have secured new employment, representing a rate of around 80 new jobs a month.

When Danish Crown closed its Grindsted plant, the group’s management decided to offer its financial support to the workbusters campaign. So far, an information leaflet has been printed and sent to 500 companies in mid and western Jutland. The leaflet provides an outline of the ambitions and abilities of the former Danish Crown employees, along with information on the purpose of the job bank and on employers’ experiences of the workbusters campaign. Subsequently, the windmill factory Vestas in the eastern city of Randers took the initiative of hiring 60 former Danish Crown employees.

Commentary

This workbusters job creation initiative represents a unique and enterprising project, and its success is undoubted. Nonetheless, it is not the only stand-alone example of job creation endeavours arising due to restructuring or outsourcing work abroad. For example, the initiative reflects some of the normal procedures stipulated with regard to mass redundancies, as laid down in Denmark’s legal provisions in the event of collective redundancies. In other words, it is part of the requirements that the local labour market authorities (job centres), employee representatives and the company’s management should be involved in the search for new jobs and continuing training for redundant workers. The success of the initiative can also be attributed to the fact that there is a shortage of workers in Denmark at present, particularly in industrial sectors. Indeed, according to the Confederation of Danish Industries (Dansk Industri, DI), Denmark’s economic growth could be slowed down due to a shortage of around 100,000 employees in trade and industry sectors.

Carsten Jørgensen, FAOS

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