Denmark’s armed forces union chief: 90% of employees in defence are part of a professional organisation

The representative's rank in the Danish army 'doesn't matter ' the crucial thing is trust'. (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP)
The representative's rank in the Danish army 'doesn't matter ' the crucial thing is trust'. (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP)
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The Danish Central Association of Permanent Defence Personnel (known by its Danish initials ‘CS’) is the Danish Armed Forces’ largest union, and organises all privates and sergeants in the Navy and the Air Force and all sergeants in the Army.

We are particularly involved in issues around the workload of employees in the forces, and their working conditions in general. We also negotiate the employees’ salaries, educational opportunities and competence development with their employers.

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We work according to the regulations we call “the Danish model”, which is based on the three main pillars of collective agreement, organisation and cooperation.

The Danish model is formed of a close partnership between the professional organisations in Denmark. CS is part of a large group of professional organisations that include all state employees.

Every three years, representatives of the state employees and the state employers negotiate wages and working conditions for all state employees. The strong bond between the professional organisations ensures a strength and scale that makes the negotiations serious and equal.

When an agreement has been concluded for all state employees, local negotiations begin within the individual ministries. Within the Ministry of Defence, CS is, as the largest professional organisation, a central part of the direct negotiations.

In Denmark there is no statutory minimum wage. Therefore, since 1970, the salaries, allowances, pensions and working conditions of soldiers have been negotiated and improved through negotiations between CS and the Armed Forces.

The agreed salary, pension and working conditions apply both during daily service and exercises, and duty in international operations and postings.

In Denmark, more than 90 per cent of employees in defence are part of a professional organisation. That gives a solid backing to the organisations’ work. For employers, it is also a great advantage in that they only negotiate with few organisations and that there are very few strikes among state employees.

CS is, as a professional organisation, also helping to ensure that any redundancies and relocations of personnel take place with the best possible conditions for the employee. CS enjoys close and good cooperation with the top management of the armed forces, but also locally in individual units, where CS has professional union representatives who handle local negotiations and are placed in central committees together with the local manager, where they can speak openly and frankly, and react to current issues. That gives them great influence.

The local CS representative is chosen by the CS members who work at a particular workplace, according to democratic principles. The CS representative’s rank, whether they’re a private or a sergeant, is not important. The crucial thing is the trust, support and recognition they have among the members – and that they are acknowledged and respected by the manager, who at the same time sees the representative as his direct connection to his employees.

Jesper Korsgaard Hansen is Chairman, Danish Central Association for Permanent Defence Personnel