Flemming Ibsen is Professor and Laust Høgedahl is PhD Fellow, both at the Department of Political Science, Aalborg University, Denmark.
The Political Economy of Work and Employment
Free riders: the rise of alternative unionism in Denmark
Article first published online: 12 AUG 2013
© 2013 Brian Towers (BRITOW) and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Industrial Relations Journal
Volume 44, Issue 5-6, pages 444–461, November 2013
How to Cite
Ibsen, F., Høgedahl, L. and Scheuer, S. (2013), Free riders: the rise of alternative unionism in Denmark. Industrial Relations Journal, 44: 444–461. doi: 10.1111/irj.12027
- Issue published online: 19 NOV 2013
- Article first published online: 12 AUG 2013
In this article we analyse some disturbing trends in the Danish labour market: while collective bargaining coverage is still relatively high, union density has been declining and—worse than that—there has been a substantial shift away from recognised and in favour of alternative unionism. The alternative unions are not parties to collective agreements, and they offer membership much cheaper than the recognised unions, in effect taking a free ride on the institutional supports that used to be effective only for the recognised unions. The article explains this conundrum by pointing to the political and institutional backgrounds to this development, which threatens to erode the very basis for the Danish collective bargaining system. On the background of general statistics and of a general employee survey, we point out the reasons behind the challenges confronting the recognised unions, pointing out that the recognised unions must become both more efficient in the member services and more cost efficient, if they wish to halt the present downhill trend.