On the Picket Line

Nurses strike in Denmark broken by state intervention

By Emma Johnson
September 20, 2021

After 10 weeks on the picket line, and with the number of strikers growing, thousands of nurses in Denmark were ordered back to work by the government. The workers, members of the Danish Nurses Union, walked off the job June 19, demanding higher wages and increased staffing. The strike began after nurses voted by a 2-1 margin to reject an unsatisfactory wage deal negotiated by union officials. It was the longest strike in Denmark in 50 years.

The government, a coalition led by the Social Democratic Party, pushed an emergency law through parliament Aug. 27, ending the strike and implementing the 5.02% wage agreement over three years that the unionists had rejected.

The strike won widespread support and solidarity from working people, even in the face of a concerted media campaign blaming nurses for postponement of thousands of procedures. “Most people understand why we are on strike, have wished us luck, and said ‘Good fight!’” Malin Theilmann, a home care worker, told the media. But, she said, winning our demands is hard because the law says, “We are not fully allowed to strike.”

The majority of nurses are women, and their pay is less than for other government workers whose jobs require similar levels of education.