Education International
Education International

Denmark’s unions receive ILO support in lockout case

published 7 January 2015 updated 8 January 2015

The Danish Union of Teachers has secured significant endorsement for its actions in a recent ILO decision following a complaint made by the union last August about the government’s intervention in the collective bargaining process.

The ILO decision stresses that the authorities have to foster free negotiations. “The ILO supports the DLF in the view that, when it came to the government’s intervention, they should not have involved only one of the parties,” said Mikkel Mailand, Labour Market Researcher at the University of Copenhagen. “The ILO is not satisfied with the government’s explanation as to why they avoided consulting the DLF.”

Thousands of teachers locked out

The lockout came in the wake of increased pressure on Denmark’s Working Hours Agreement from public employers who wanted more teaching hours for the same resources. Significantly, in April 2013, about 44,000 members of the DLF were locked out of their schools for almost four weeks. The lockout was the culmination of a long struggle, in which the employers and the Danish government had planned major changes to fundamental agreements on Danish teachers’ working hours.

The lockout – the most extensive ever in Denmark – affected all teachers, preschool teachers, specialists, supervisors, consultants and psychologists appointed under a collective agreement and without management powers. It was also the first time in Denmark’s history that public employers made use of a lockout without a prior strike by employees.

The lockout ended with a political intervention that unanimously supported the employers but did not include any input from the DLF. This circumvented all the normal rules on the Danish labour market, ultimately threatening the “Danish Model” of collective bargaining.

Children affected

The Working Hours Agreement in Denmark, which was in force until March 2013, had set the maximum number of weekly teaching lessons agreed in detail between the individual municipality and the local branch of the teachers’ union. This ensured time for other tasks directly linked to teaching, such as preparation and correction of homework as well as collaboration with colleagues, parents and authorities.