Teachers in Rudersdal Council protesting their lockout in April 2013. Photo: Keld Navntoft/Scanpix
In the upcoming book, former business minister Annette Vilhelmsen of the left-wing Socialist People’s Party (SF) claims that the government of then PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt made an agreement with Local Government Denmark (Kommunernes Landsforening), an interest group for all of Denmark's 98 municipalities, to bar the nation’s teachers from doing their jobs.
Until now, the official story had been that the lockout was the result of conflict over teachers’ working hours between KL and the Danish Union of Teachers’ (Danmarks Lærerforening). The teachers’ union refused to sign a collective bargaining agreement that gave school leaders, rather than the teachers themselves, more responsibility for deciding teachers’ work schedules.
When the two sides were unable to reach an agreement, publicly-employed teachers and after-school instructors were locked out nationwide. The conflict also affected more than 20,000 adult foreigners in language classes.
The conflict lasted a month before the government stepped in and passed a bill that forced the teachers to accept the new working conditions.
Vilhelmsen now claims that Thorning-Schmidt’s government and KL were in cahoots all along, news agency Ritzau, which obtained an advance copy of the book, reported on Wednesday.
There was existing suspicion that the government was behind the lockout thanks in large part to a 2016 interview with the newspaper Politiken in which Thorning-Schmidt said that “we” decided that the teachers should be barred from working. The newspaper later retracted the story, but Vilhelmsen said that the former PM’s apparent slip of the tongue was an admission of the truth.
“I was almost relieved when I read the interview with Thorning because now she was finally saying things like they were. The lockout of the teachers was the government’s decision,” Vilhelmsen says in the book.
As chairman of the Danish Teachers’ Union, Anders Bondo Christensen key player in the 2013 lockout. He said that Vilhelmsen’s admission is a major blow for the union’s relationship with the government.
“When you take part in this kind of act and recognize that there has been a significant campaign to undermine the trustworthiness of the teachers and the teachers’ union, it has an impact. That is obvious,” he told Ritzau.
He said he wasn’t overly surprised about the revelation because it “completely matches the experience” he had in attempting to negotiate a solution with KL.
“We never entered negotiations associated with the collective bargaining agreement. It was a complete and total farce. And it was like that because the result was determined in advance,” Bondo said.
Throughout the conflict, Bondo complained that “the result was written beforehand”.
“It couldn't be changed by so much as a comma. I have never experienced negotiations like this. It is completely grotesque and absurd,” he told broadcaster DR in March 2013.
The bitter teacher lockout was a precursor to the 2014 school reform, described as the most comprehensive education reform in modern Danish history. With roughly 875,000 students and course participants – including over 550,000 public school students – affected by the lockout, many parents turned sour on the public school reform.