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4 April 2019

Denmark: the industrial relations landscape changes with a trade union merger and new leadership on the employers’ side

After a merger of LO and HTF, which was decided in 2018, the country now has two instead of three trade union confederations. The resulting trade union confederation, FH, aims to gain more influence and better defend workers’ rights. FH will have to deal with a new leadership on the employers’ side.

The merger of the two largest trade union confederations – the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO, founded in 1898) and the Confederation of Professionals in Denmark (FTF, founded in 1952) – in the Danish Trade Union Confederation (Fagbevægelsens Hovedorganisation, FH) became effective on 1 January 2019. The talks about a merger between LO and FTF first started in 2003, after LO dissolved its exclusive alliance with the Social Democrats. Since 2013, the two confederations have been preparing the merger in more detail. Prior to the merger, LO was a member of the organisation SAMAK, together with LO organisations in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland as well as social democratic parties in Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland. The new FH has chosen to take Danish LO’s seat in SAMAK. But that does not mean that FH is ‘wedded’ to certain political parties.

The confederation has some 1.4 million members, unionised in 79 affiliated unions. According to the confederation website, FH’s main objective is to defend employee interests vis-a-vis employers and authorities. Through its cooperation with associations, cartels and other trade union organisations, FH seeks to influence the government and the political parties when it comes to drafting and implementing legislation, especially in relation to labour market policies.

As a result, the trade union landscape changes. Next to the new confederation, the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations (Akademikerne) completes the workers’ side. Meanwhile, the main employers’ organisation, the Danish Confederation of Employers (DA) made changes at the top. The first challenge for the new leadership will be to find unity within the organisation DA as members are very different and there is internal rivalry: there is the giant Confederation of Danish Industry (DI), the Danish Chamber of Commerce and the Danish Construction Association – as well as a range of smaller and very small member organisations. The new President must seek broad compromises that all the members can agree on.

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