Uffe Rostrup: A Good Collective Agreement
We did it, and it is a good collective agreement. This is how the Chairman of the Teachers' Union for Danish Independent Schools Uffe Rostrup sums up the collective agreement that was signed in the state sector at approx. 9 pm on Saturday April 28. The collective agreement will apply for the next three years.
Everything considered, Uffe Rostrup thinks that the agreement lives up to the goal:
“The result as regards salaries is really good. The solution to the problem concerning working hours gives me some hope for the future. The paid lunch break has been guaranteed in a way that is certainly also of value to us. And finally, the agreement opens up for union negotiations in which we can and want to find a solution to our critical challenge: New salaries which as usual impair the total result,” says Uffe Rostrup.
As good as possible as regards working hours
Not all the points in the agreement get top marks. Uffe Rostrup would have been more enthusiastic if he could present an actual agreement about working hours to the teachers. That was what we aimed for, and it was the requirement that was communicated during the negotiations: An agreement that is worth the same as the agreement that the other parties have.
But it just was not possible to move the employers sufficiently on this point.
“We could not have gotten a better result than the one we got. The employers did not want it, and the alliance we had among the employees could not stand any longer. In return, it was the coalition that created the result we got as regards working hours. We would not have succeeded without the enormous collective pressure from the trade unions,” says Uffe Rostrup.
As in 2015, the parties in the collective agreement confirmed that they could not agree on the issue about working hours. Thus, law 409 still applies, and it still regulates the teachers’ working hours.
However, the negotiators in the state sector agreed that the rules that will be made in the local government area will be transferred and adapted to the teachers in the state sector in connection with the collective bargaining in 2021.
The negotiators in the local government sector agreed on a binding negotiation in their settlement. Under the management of a committee chairman with considerable powers, a committee will investigate the challenges and opportunities as regards the rules about the teachers’ working hours and give recommendations to how the rules can strengthen the teachers’ working environment, the quality with which tasks are solved, and give the individual teacher a better overview of the connection between resources and tasks.
This solution is actually really good, says Uffe Rostrup:
“In the process of the collective bargaining, the parties in local government sector found common ground. They have a better and more trusting cooperation than we have in the state sector, and that is why I hope that they can find good solutions that will influence our sector,” he says.
There are no guarantees in the solution in the local government sector.
“We do not know what the committee will recommend, and we do not know if the parties can agree to implement it. But it is the best possible solution,” says Uffe Rostrup.
The alternative would have been a dispute with a subsequent legislative intervention, and that would most certainly not be a good solution, Uffe Rostrup thinks:
“The Danish Parliament (“Folketinget”) would have reapplied the existing rules, and then we could start all over again next time. A dispute would have set us back to square one. Now, there is hope,” he says.
The agreement about salaries is really good
The enthusiasm as regards the salaries is distinct and unanimous, says Uffe Rostrup:
“Here, we swept the board. And the reason is one and only one thing – as is the case for the other results: the musketeer oath and the strong solidarity among the employees.”
The total financial framework is 8.1 percent. That is almost two percentage points more than the employers were willing to offer at first. It amounts to approx. 500-600 Danish kroner per month.
The general (and guaranteed) pay increases are a tad below the increases in the local government sector. The reason is that the residual increase in the state sector is larger and that some funds have been used to guarantee the paid lunch break. And even if the lunch break did not mean anything when the Teachers' Union for Danish Independent Schools selected its requirements for the collective bargaining, the guarantee has a practical significance, says Uffe Rostrup.
“Some schools have already begun to challenge the paid lunch break. Now we have it as a guaranteed right that is part of the collective agreement,” he says.
However, most importantly, the private salary protection has been removed, and the regulation mechanism is symmetrical once again. The salary will be regulated up by 80 percent if the salaries of the public employees increase less than the salaries of the private employees, and down by 80 percent if they increase more.
At the same time, it is worth noticing that this time the residual increase is 1.5 percent. Last time, it was 2.1 percent, and it is good that the figure is lower, Uffe Rostrup explains:
“It takes away some of the pressure on the trade union representatives and the decentralised salary negotiations. The residual increase is actually what we should try to negotiate about at the decentralised salary negotiations if we are to keep up with salaries of the teachers in the primary and lower secondary school (the Danish “Folkeskole”). And in the years to come, the figure will be a bit lower than it used to”, he says.
It is not bad at all
Uffe Rostrup understands the members who had hoped to get a new and better agreement about working hours are disappointed. It is true what they say that the union has helped build up the members’ expectations as they have time and again required an agreement about working hours that is worth the same as the agreement that everybody else has. In that light, the negotiators did not reach their target, Uffe Rostrup admits, but it is important to remember what we aimed for when the negotiations started, he thinks:
“When the collective bargaining started, we had a very clear mandate from the members: Avoid a dispute, and solve the problems with the decentralised salaries. That was the target of the negotiations. We can tick off the first point. We avoided a damaging dispute. And we will be working on the second point when the union negotiations start. In that perspective, it is not bad at all.”
The result in brief
- The total salary development is 8.1 percent. A 5.6 percent general salary increase, a 1.5 percent residual increase, and the rest for different funds including union negotiations. The private salary protection has been removed, the regulation mechanism is 80/80.
- The paid lunch break is guaranteed - paid by funds.
- The working hours will be regulated according to law 409. The parties are waiting for the result and recommendations from the work in the committee in the local government sector.