In Denmark, trade unions play an important role in the society.
Trade unions represent their members towards their employers.
You will find trade union structures at the workplace level, where shop stewards participate in consultations with the management and in some cases represent the workers in wage negotiations. The shop steward is the trade union at the workplace level.
Trade unions also play a significant role in upholding a safe and healthy working environment.
At national level, trade unions negotiate collective agreements with employers’ organisations. Since collective agreements regulate large parts of the labour market regulation, the trade unions play an important role to secure decent wages and working conditions. The regulation of working conditions is primarily in the hands of the social partners, contributing to the creation of a dynamic labour market and at the same time strengthening the influence and relevance of the social partners.
As an example, in Denmark there is no legislation regulating wages. Wages are defined exclusively in the collective agreements. Wage setting and the development of salaries are negotiated at company or sector level.
Another important role is to participate in solving disputes related to the collective agreements.
The Danish model is based on the collective representation of the employees rather than on giving the individual employee rights. All workers are free to join a trade union, and it is the trade union with all its collective strength, which protects/fight for the employees’ rights, not the individual employee. Almost 70 percent of the Danish workforce belong to a trade union.
Without members of trade unions, there would be no legitimacy for social partners to regulate via collective agreement or to enforce the rules of the labour market.
Membership and unemployment insurance
The membership of a trade union is not obligated by law. However, if you choose to become a member of a trade union, your choice of trade union depends on your education/position and workplace.
Trade unions are associated with unemployment insurance funds. Having unemployment insurance is generally a good idea. In order to sign up you are not obligated to become a member of a trade union.