Angry trade unions say government is ‘attacking Danish model’ over plans to scrap holiday

The confederation for trade unions in Denmark, Fagbevægelsens Hovedorganisation (FH), issued scathing criticism of the government after meetings over the plan to abolish the Great Prayer Day public holiday.

Angry trade unions say government is ‘attacking Danish model’ over plans to scrap holiday
A file photo of Lizette Risgaard of the Danish Trade Union Confederation. Trade unions are opposed to the proposal to abolish the Great Prayer Day holiday. Photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix

FH met on Thursday to discuss the issue after the government formalised its proposal to scrap Great Prayer Day by tabling a parliamentary bill.

“This is a blatant attack on the Danish [labour] model that we are so proud of in this country,” FH chairperson Lizette Risgaard told news wire Ritzau.

The Danish model secures wages and other working conditions through agreements between employer organisations and trade unions, known as collective bargaining agreements.

By removing a public holiday unilaterally, the government is acting outside the established labour model, according to the FH criticism.

“The government is removing [the collective agreement] with a quick fix by removing this public holiday and thereby a negotiated agreement on the Danish labour market,” Risgaard said.

Denmark’s government has previously objected to intervention from the EU in the country’s labour rules, the FH chairperson noted.

“Now the government itself is throwing a concrete post straight at the model. It’s absurd,” she said.

READ ALSO: Store Bededag: Why does Denmark have annual ‘Prayer Day’ holiday?

Parts of the trade union movement have earlier suggested they could ask members to vote against any new collective agreement if the government does not withdraw the plan to abolish Great Prayer Day.

But this will not be FH’s recommendation, Risgaard stated after Thursday’s talks.

“But it will create more challenges for collective bargaining negotiations ongoing in parts of the private sector,” she said.

The trade union confederation will also make its views clear during the consultation phase of the bill, she said.

FH’s opposite number, the confederation for employer organisations Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening (DA), backs the government proposal.

The proposal will “increase the labour force by 8,500. We see that as a very positive thing,” the CEO with DA, Jacob Holbraad, said in a comment.

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Denmark’s defence minister takes sick leave following illness

Denmark’s Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen is to take sick leave for an undetermined period, two months after leading the Liberal (Venstre) party into coalition government.

Denmark’s defence minister takes sick leave following illness

The 49-year-old was admitted briefly to hospital last week for “nausea”, just after returning from Ukraine.

“I was eager to go back to work immediately. But now that it’s been a few days I have to realise I’m not ready for this,” he said on Facebook.  “I have been unusually busy for a long time. Now my body is sending me a signal that it’s time to take a break, if not it’s going to end badly,” he said.

“The bottom line is that, on the advice of my doctor, I need to unplug for a while and take leave. And then I will return when I’m ready.”

Economy Minister Troels Lund Poulsen will fill in for Ellemann-Jensen during his absence, the government said.

His absence comes as Danes protest against government plans to abolish a public holiday, Great Prayer Day. The government says the plan will help fund the defence budget.

Ellemann-Jensen has led the Liberal party since late 2019. The party is traditionally the second largest in the Danish parliament and senior member of the ‘blue bloc’ alliance of conservative parties.

It suffered a poor result in the 2022 election with its 13 percent share of the vote representing 10 points less than its vote share in 2019. Ellemann-Jensen subsequently took the party into coalition government with two other parties including erstwhile rivals the Social Democrats.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s Social Democrats in worst opinion poll since 2015