Danish Word of the Day: overenskomst

Danish Word of the Day: overenskomst
Photo: EikoTsuttiy/Depositphotos
This Danish word is frequently heard whenever there is a strike or any kind of industrial dispute.

Why do I need to know overenskomst?

Almost 70 percent of people in Denmark are members of a trade union, which means the majority of people will have some interest in an overenskomst.

It’s also in the current news cycle – an overenskomst is needed to end the current SAS pilots’ strike. It’s often when negotiations over a new overenskomst break down that strikes (or retaliatory ‘lockouts’) occur.

READ ALSO: Trust, risk and regulation: how Denmark’s 2013 teachers’ lockout built the platform for a far greater crisis

So what does it mean?

To be overens means to be in agreement with or match something, while the -komst suffix is derived from the verb at komme – to come or to arrive. An overenskomst, then, is the arrival at an agreement. It is used specifically in the context of negotiations between unions and employers’ organisations.

The agreement itself is a contract which regulates wages, for example stipulating that all employees with a certain job title must receive a salary within a certain pay band, as well as holiday allowance, overtime pay, working hours, and other benefits.

How do I use it?

Overenskomst is used to refer to a collective bargaining agreement, or a set of working conditions agreed between employers and union representatives.

For example:

De forhandlede natten igennem for at lande den overenskomst, der kunne være med til at undgå en lockout-situation.
‘They negotiated through the night to reach a deal that can help avoid a lockout situation.’

Arbejdsgiverorganisationen og fagforeningen er langt fra hinanden, og ingen forventer en overenskomst foreløbigt.
‘The employer representatives and trade unions are far apart in their demands, and agreement is not expected in the near future.’


There are other ways of describing union negotiations and agreements with words which are also used in other contexts. These include the normal words for agreement (aftale) and solution (løsning).

Jeg håber snart, der kommer en aftale, så sygeplejerskerne ikke bliver tvunget til at strejke.
’I hope an agreement will be reached soon, so that nurses aren’t forced to go on strike’

Jeg tror, vi finder på en god løsning under forhandlingerne.
’I believe we will come up with a good solution during these negotiations’.

READ ALSO: More Danish words of the day

Do you have any favourite or unusual Danish words you’d like to nominate as Word of the Day, or want us to explain? Let us know via email. 

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