In Denmark, trade unions play an important role at workplaces and in society as general.
You will find trade union structures at workplace level. A shop steward is a worker elected by the other workers at a company to represent them in discussions with management. Shop stewards participate in consultations with the management regarding working conditions and in some cases represent the workers in wage negotiations.
Trade unions also play a significant role in upholding a safe and healthy work 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 fair wages and good working conditions.
The regulation of working conditions is primarily in the hands of the social partners (employers and employees, each organised in various types of association), contributing to the creation of a dynamic labour market and at the same time strengthening the influence and relevance of the social partners.
The social partners' large influence on employment policy, wages and labour conditions are characteristic of the Danish labour market model. The state's cooperation with the social partners is today an integrated part of the Danish employment policy.
As an example, in Denmark there is no legislation regulating wages. Wages are exclusively defined in the collective agreements. Wage-setting and the development of salaries are negotiated at company or sector level by the social partners.
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.
You can find more information about trade unions by visiting lifeindenmark.dk.
Go to lifeindenmark.dk to read more about trade unions (new tab).
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 most often associated with unemployment insurance funds (in Danish called “A-kasse”). Having unemployment insurance is generally a good idea. In order to sign up for an unemployment insurance fund you are not obligated to become a member of a trade union.
Read more about why you should sign up for an unemployment insurance fund here.
Links to a selections of trade unions with English websites
IDA - The Danish Society of Engineers in Denmark (new tab).
Djøf - Association of academics (new tab).
Finansforbundet - Financial Services Union Denmark (new tab).
Dadl - the Danish Medical Association (new tab).
Pharmadanmark - Association of Professionals in Pharmaceutical Science (new tab).
3F - The United Federation of Danish Workers (new tab).
FOA - Trade and Labour (new tab).
Danish Association of Masters and PhDs (new tab).