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A bosses’ lockout fails to curb teachers’ resistance in Denmark

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Lene Junker reports from an all-out teachers’ strike that has got the bosses, and the government, on the run
Issue 2349

Over 40,000 teachers converged on the Danish capital Copenhagen on Thursday of last week in a magnificent demonstration of defiance against a savage employers’ offensive.

The protest mobilised more than half the country’s school teachers. 

It displayed the potential for winning a victory that would show workers across Europe that austerity can be beaten.

Teachers began the third week of what is in effect an all-out strike this week.

It began when employers locked most teachers out of schools on 2 April. Over 750,000 school students have been at home ever since.

The dispute began as part of national negotiations between all public sector unions and employers’ organisations over pay and conditions.

Employers decided to take on the teachers. They demanded teachers accept an increase in teaching hours.

They also demanded that heads should decide on how individual teachers divide their time between teaching, planning and preparation.


The coalition government, led by the Labour-type Social Democrats, has backed the employers with a propaganda campaign. 

This claims that students need to spend more hours in the classroom to drive up standards.

And it attacks teachers for not working hard enough, leaving school too early and having too many holidays.

All of this will sound familiar to teachers in Britain. 

The assault has come as the government has pushed through attacks on unemployed workers, benefit claimants and students.

This too will be familiar to workers in Britain.

The bosses’ organisations hoped a lockout would quickly break teachers’ resistance and allow them to drive through their wider austerity measures.

But the anger among teachers at the constant attacks they have faced has erupted into a determination to beat back the bosses’ offensive. 

Teachers have been meeting outside schools every morning to discuss and organise. 

They have been staging imaginative protests and winning widespread public support for their stance.

So teachers formed a continuous 20 mile human chain between the capital Copenhagen and the town of Roskilde last week.

Under Danish law the government can intervene and try to force a settlement. 

But it is nervous about doing so because even many of its supporters are siding with the teachers.

Under Danish law other unions could call solidarity strikes to back the teachers.


But teachers’ union leaders are shying away from that.

Activists in teaching unions must build on the activity so far to win this fight. 

They must reach out to workers across the public sector in every area.

Teachers can speak at workplace meetings, call reps’ meetings across cities and press union leaders to call the wider action that could humble the employers.

A victory in this fight would not only be a victory for teachers. It would be a powerful message that workers anywhere can beat back the bosses’ attacks—and austerity governments too.

Rush messages of support to the Danish Teachers Union at [email protected] and copy to [email protected]
Lene Junker is a teacher in Odense, Denmark, and a member of the International Socialists, the Socialist Workers Party sister organisation in Denmark

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