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Why are waste containers overflowing on Copenhagen’s streets?

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Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
Why are waste containers overflowing on Copenhagen’s streets?
Waste collection has been disrupted in Copenhagen this week after collectors went on strike over a dispute with their future employer ARC. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Refuse collectors in Copenhagen have extended a strike into a fifth day despite being fined by a labour court.

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One of the striking waste collectors, Michael Johansen, told media TV2 Kosmopol in an SMS that the action was “continuing”, adding that the workers were currently in “a meeting”.

The strike means that rubbish has not been collected in large parts of the city as well as in outlying Tårnby and Dragør throughout this week.

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Johansen also told TV2 that the refuse workers would not meet again until Monday, meaning a resolution is unlikely to come before the weekend.

The strike is ongoing despite fines being handed down to the workers by the Danish Labour Court (Ardejdsretten) on Thursday. The court can fine workers for striking if the strike has not been officially sanctioned by their trade union and therefore in breach of collective bargaining agreements.

READ ALSO: What is a Danish collective bargaining agreement?

Strikes which go ahead without approval from unions are not permitted under the agreements. They are commonly referred to as “wildcat strikes”.

Union-approved strikes can occur in situations in which bargaining negotiations between the union and employers’ organisations break down. In these situations, they are considered part of negotiation tactics.

The fine issued by the Labour Court on Thursday totals as much as 1.2 million kroner, and corresponds to 50 kroner per hour for unskilled refuse collectors and 56 kroner per hour for skilled workers, according to the trade union publication Fagbladet 3F.

The hourly rate means the fine will increase throughout the day on Friday. Their trade unions earlier advised they should not continue the walkout.

Refuse collectors have stepped away from their duties this week over a conflict with Amager Ressourcecenter (ARC), the company which operates waste disposal facilities in Copenhagen including the Amager Bakke incinerator, a 124-metre tall, sloping building which can be seen from most of the southern part of the city.

The company is set to become the collectors’ employer as Copenhagen Municipality takes over refuse collection businesses in the city from private subcontractors, according to TV2 Kosmopol.

This means the workers will become employees of the public-owned ARC.

They oppose working conditions which could apply to them following the transition on September 1st.

According to TV2 Kosmopol, the grievance is related to a change of rules which will prevent the workers from finishing work early if they have completed their collection rounds. ARC wants them to have set working hours, citing safety.

The company also wants time to allow sufficient charging of electric rubbish trucks.

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