Denmark: Social partners welcome new tripartite agreement on adult and continuing education

The Danish government, the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions and the Confederation of Danish Employers have concluded a tripartite agreement on adult and continuing training. This follows two other important tripartite agreements, one on the better integration of refugees in the labour market and the other on improving incentives for participation in vocational training.

Background

The tripartite agreement on adult and continuing training (VEU), concluded in October 2017, runs from 2018 to 2021. It aims to strengthen the activities of publicly offered adult and continuing training and applies to:

  • people who want to upgrade their qualifications within their current trade;
  • people who want to change their trade or branch.

The agreement underpins improvement in the quality of the training courses while also allowing companies more flexibility.

Speaking after the conclusion of the agreement, the Minister of Employment, Troels Lund Poulsen, commented:

600,000 adults lack basic reading and writing skills. Almost every second unskilled worker does not consider it necessary to take up continuing training, and we can see that still fewer sign up for adult and continuing education. These are some of the major challenges that the agreement takes care of.

Key parts of the agreement

New reconversion fund

Around DKK 400 million (€53.6 million as at 5 March 2018) has been set aside for a ‘reconversion fund’, which will enable unskilled and skilled workers to undertake further training on their own initiative. The main aim of this fund is to provide better opportunities for change.

Outreach pool

Basic skills will be strengthened through more opportunities for people to attend courses in reading, writing and arithmetic, and through the allocation of a budget of DKK 100 million (€13.4 million) to increase awareness of these opportunities. There will be an increased focus on skills in information and communication technologies (ICT) and English.

Strengthening the quality of courses

The quality of the adult and continuing vocational training courses (AMU) will be improved by increasing the tariffs for schools, bringing the AMU budget to DKK 280 million (€37.5 million). In addition, DKK 140 million (€18.7 million) has been earmarked for securing a sufficient supply of different courses tailored to the needs of the labour market. Higher tariffs will also help to ensure that the courses are carried out as planned.

More relevant and flexible AMU courses

A more flexible range of AMU courses will be provided, with more opportunities to tailor them to the particular needs of businesses. Participants are also expected to be able to document their acquired skills by, for instance, taking exams and receiving certificates. The agreement also makes it easier for private contractors to provide AMU courses.

Easier access to continuing training

The choice of training and access to it has been made easier. There will be a single point of entry to the VEU system, making it easier for companies and employees to:

  • obtain information and guidance about training opportunities;
  • enrol on courses;
  • apply for VEU allowances.

Higher allowance on AMU

In a bid to increase the incentive to sign up for AMU courses, the allowance paid to participants will be increased from 80% to 100% of the highest unemployment benefit rate.

Development programme for more advanced training

DKK 5 million (€ 0.66 million) has been earmarked annually for a development programme for more advanced adult and continuing training, in order to keep up with the rapid transformation of both the private and the public labour market, as a result of digitisation and other technological influencing factors.

Social partners welcome agreement

The tripartite agreement was received positively by individual social partner organisations and most political parties, including the opposition.

The trade unions welcomed the increased allowance for those participating in AMU. Dennis Kristensen, President of Trade and Labour (FOA) the largest union affiliated to the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) in the public sector, praised the agreement, saying:

This is an important result. There is no doubt that the low level of compensation has played a major role in the decline in adult and continuing education in municipalities and regions.

His comments were echoed by the largest unions in the private sector, the United Federation of Danish Workers (3F) and the Union of Commercial and Clerical Employees (HK). The employer organisations, the Confederation of Danish Employers (DA) and the Confederation of Danish Industries (DI), are also satisfied that the new agreement meets their need for more qualified employees.

Commentary

The agreement has been under negotiation for a long time, but the results have satisfied most of those concerned. For the trade unions, it was the start of their efforts to strengthen vocational and continuing training that, nevertheless, is facing planned savings in the state budget at technical and vocational schools. Claus Jensen, President of the Danish Union of Metalworkers (Dansk Metal) commented:

It’s no secret that we have fought tooth and nail to remove the planned savings in vocational education, so with the tripartite agreement we have taken a step in the right direction.

This agreement was part of a three-stage plan which the government introduced in the spring of 2016. Three subjects were discussed:

  • the integration of refugees in the labour market;
  • the improvement of working conditions for apprentices;
  • the agreement on adult and continuing training.

The reason for this strategy stems from the unsuccessful tripartite discussion of 2012, which broke down very early because the unions refused to discuss a question on working time. The Liberal Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, decided to choose the three-stage model in case of deadlock in one of the subjects. However, all the agreements were concluded, leading to optimism about future tripartite negotiations.

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