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Danish trade unions demand referendum over Great Prayer Day abolition

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Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
Danish trade unions demand referendum over Great Prayer Day abolition
Denmark's parliament in session on Tuesday. Trade unions say they want a national referendum over the government bill to scrap Great Prayer Day. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The confederation for trade unions in Denmark, Fagbevægelsens Hovedorganisation (FH), says that the country’s unions want a national referendum over whether to scrap the Great Prayer Day public holiday.

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FH chairperson Lizette Risgaard told broadcasters DR and TV2 on Tuesday that the influential confederation wants a referendum on the issue.

“This is not because we are in favour of having referendums about one thing and another, but this is such an incredible attack on the Danish [labour] model, so we think the bill should be withdrawn or a referendum should be called,” Risgaard said.

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The announcement came after series of meetings were held by FH earlier on Tuesday. Some of Denmark’s largest trade unions, including FOA, 3F and HK, were represented at the meetings.

The representatives “agreed that we have tried to ask the government to withdraw the bill, which we think is a blatant attack on the Danish model,” Risgaard said.

“Today, we still urge the government to take the proposal off the table. It is inappropriate,” she said.

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

The FH chairperson also said the organisation is planning a demonstration against the proposal. The protest will take place in front of Christiansborg Palace, the Danish parliament.

A petition which can by signed by anyone who opposes the plan to scrap Great Prayer Day was started on Tuesday.

The coalition government wants to scrap the Great Prayer Day public holiday from 2024 in a move it says will allow accelerated spending on defence. A formal bill was tabled last week and could be given expedited passage through parliament.

The three coalition parties – the Social Democrats, Liberals (Venstre) and Moderates – have a parliamentary majority and can therefore pass the bill without votes from other parties. The proposal has met with heavy criticism.

On Tuesday, all nine parliamentary parties that are not in the government -- taking in both the left and right wings -- refused to comply with a government demand that they vote for the bill in order to be part of an upcoming defence agreement. The refusal is significant because national defence policy usually has consensus across parliament.

Great Prayer Day (Store Bededag) has existed since the 1600s and falls on the fourth Sunday after Easter, giving everyone who works in Denmark an additional long spring weekend.

It is also the weekend on which many young Danes attend their traditional confirmation ceremonies.

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

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