Denmark: Latest developments in working life Q2 2019

A political agreement to strengthen and coordinate efforts to improve the Danish work environment, a new act for the psychological working environment and a strike by SAS pilots are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Denmark in the second quarter of 2019.

Political agreement to improve working environment

In April 2019, a majority in parliament decided to strengthen and coordinate efforts to improve the Danish working environment, so that fewer people become sick or worn out because of work. To fulfil these ambitions, the Danish Working Environment Authority is allocating approximately DKK 460 million (€61.6 million as at 23 July 2019) until 2022. [1]

The agreement is based on recommendations made in September 2018 by an expert committee on the working environment. However, the political negotiations took some time as negotiations related to improved early retirement possibilities took precedence.

As well as improving working environments, the agreement aims to tighten the targeted efforts of the Danish Working Environment Authority to supervise workplaces. In practice, this means that the supervision will be reinforced in companies and industries that have particularly risky working environments. The agreement also gives the inspectorates under the Danish Working Environment Authority a higher level of responsibility than at present.

New act to bolster psychological work environment

As part of the political agreement to strengthen the Danish working environment effort, the political parties decided to develop a consolidation act for the psychological working environment. The purpose of the act is to make the rules clearer for employers, managers and employees. A draft is to be discussed with the political parties in autumn 2019, with a view to it entering into force on 1 January 2020. [2]

The trade unions are largely positive about the prospect of the new consolidation act. The employer organisations have not released any comments to the media on the matter. However, Pernille Knudsen, Deputy Managing Director of the Confederation of Danish Employers (DA), emphasised in an article in January 2019 that the majority of those who feel stressed at work also believe they are physically and mentally capable of performing their work. She felt that there was therefore a need to discover the origin of the stress. [3]

SAS pilots strike over pay and scheduling

On 26 April 2019, around 1,500 Danish, Norwegian and Swedish pilots from Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) went on strike over negotiations about the renewal of a collective agreement. Their main points of contention were wage increases and the notice period for the flight schedules of pilots.

Pilots and cabin crew experienced changes in their working time and wage decreases following a decade of economic decline for SAS. When this decline reversed in the last two years (leading to a surplus of DKK 1 billion), the pilots felt that they were now entitled to higher wages.

The pilots sought a raise of 13% over the three years of the new collective agreement (2019–2022) and a longer notice period regarding their flight schedule. The period in force was 15 days and the pilots claimed that this was insufficient time to allow them to make any long-term plans.

The management of SAS claimed that the pilots’ demands were ‘sky high’ and that meeting their demands would be irresponsible. In terms of the length of the notice period, SAS stated that the scheduling needed to be flexible in order to respond to fluctuating passenger numbers.

On 2 May, the parties agreed to a 10.5% salary increase over three years (4.5% in 2019, 3% in 2020 and 4% in 2021). Regarding the notice period, the management of SAS admitted around 60% staff have a notice period of two months against just 40% previously. [4]

Outlook

A general election took place in Denmark on 15 June 2019. The Social Democrats claimed victory, supported by the Socialist People’s Party, the Social Liberals and the Red–Green Alliance. Mette Frederiksen, leader of the Social Democrats, formed a new government for a four-year period. One of her first challenges will be to conclude a political agreement about early retirement from the labour market due to exhaustion or stress (shortly before the election, the previous government succeeded in concluding an agreement with the support of the Social Liberal party).

The Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (FH) has been very active in the debate about early retirement and supports any initiatives that address this, including a proposal from the Social Democrats to introduce different retirement ages for those with physical and cognitive disabilities.


Footnotes

  1. ^ Altinget (2019), 460 mio. kr. til Arbejdstilsynet og dobbelt bødestraf: Her er arbejdsmiljøforliget , 25 April.
  2. ^ FAO (2019), Aftale skal tage psykisk arbejdsmiljø alvorligt , 25 April.
  3. ^ Altinget (2019), DA: Stressede danskere kan sagtens føle sig sunde , 18 January.
  4. ^ Politiken (2019), SAS-piloter vender tilbage til cockpittet , 2 May.

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