Denmark: Red-Green Alliance arms itself for vital 2019 election fights


The annual conference of Denmark’s Red-Green Alliance (RGA) — known inside the country as the Unity List: the Red-Greens — took place on April 27-29 during a moment of class struggle unusual in these times of weakened trade union organisation.

The conference of the radical left force wouldn’t even have happened at that time if Denmark’s public sector unions had been forced to strike in support of their demands over wages and conditions. By April 28, however, as a result of a six-week-long wave of mobilisations that won strong public support, negotiation by itself was enough for the 750,000 workers in the country’s three tiers of government to win an average 8.1% pay rise over three years.

Variations on this average figure will allow funding of a reduction in the gender wage gap and higher wage increases for the low-paid. The continuing payment of lunch breaks is also guaranteed and any future private sector wage gains will be matched in the public sector.

The biggest shortcoming of the deal, which has still to be endorsed by the memberships of the unions involved, was the failure of council-employed teachers to get the national law setting their working hours replaced by an agreement with their employing bodies. This legislation was imposed by the 2011-2015 Social Democrat-led government to end a 2013 lockout that the government itself had deliberately provoked. A special commission will now be set up to tackle the issue.

Given the support the public sector workers’ campaign enjoyed in the Danish population at large, the right-wing coalition government of Liberal[1] prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen chose to avoid a 2013-style confrontation, claiming, in the words of Minister for Public Sector Innovation Sophie Løhde, that the employing bodies had not been too generous. This comment came in response to Jacob Halbraad, spokesperson for the Confederation of Danish Employers, who had said on April 29 that the price of the final deal had been excessive: “There is a risk of it affecting wage levels in the private sector, which could cause a loss of growth and jobs in Denmark.”

RGA members mobilised strongly in support of the public sector workers. By contrast, the formerly governing Social Democrats, the largest party on the “red” side of a Danish political spectrum that is conventionally divided into red and blue halves, maintained a stance of seeming neutrality. On March 15, party leader Mette Frederiksen said: “The Social Democrat party does not interfere in conflicts relating to the Danish labour market. That’s how the Danish model works.”

This stance implied that the Social Democrats would accept an employer lock-out resulting from any breakdown in negotiations, an attitude that has deepened the divide between the trade unions and the party that was once their political voice. Evidence of this was the decision of the Aalborg branch of the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) to withdraw their traditional invitation for the leader of the Social Democrats to address May Day, an important event in Danish political life.

By contrast, the RGA’s support for the public sector workers has been reflected in a recent rise in their support in opinion polls, now at over 10% compared to the 7.8% won at the June 2015 general election.

LINKS for more

Comments are closed.