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Danish PM Has Strike-ending Plan

May 6, 1998

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) _ Denmark’s prime minister proposed today that workers be given more vacation time in an effort to end the country’s crippling, 10-day-old labor strike.

Quick approval of Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen’s plan was expected, as congressional leaders apparently had endorsed it privately. The vote was set for Thursday, and union workers and private employers would be legally obliged to accept it.

It would take effect almost immediately upon approval.

``Society has been brought to an irresponsible situation,″ Nyrup Rasmussen said in a nationwide TV broadcast.

Schools have shut down, hospitals have cut services, mass transit has been severely disrupted and shortages of gas and food have appeared since the strike began April 27.

About 450,000 unionized workers in the private sector struck to protest the proposed, three-year pay plan their leaders had negotiated with the Employers Confederation.

Another 60,000 union workers were locked out of their jobs Tuesday, when talks collapsed and both sides declined to submit to state mediation.

It was the worst labor strike in Denmark since April 1985.

The key issue in the strike was the unions’ demands for a sixth week of paid, annual vacation. Employers at first offered a single day, Christmas Eve, which _ although not a formal holiday _ many workers take off anyway.

Nyrup Rasmussen proposed that all employees get two additional days off, including Dec. 24; and that workers with children under age 14 be given an additional three personal days per year.

The political and economic uncertainty brought on by the strike prompted the Central Bank to sell $2.2 billion dollars in foreign reserves this week, buying kroner to stabilize the weakening national currency.

Overall, the government estimated that the strike cost Denmark $556 million a week _ 0.5 percent of gross national production.

The government has intervened in 10 of the last 11 labor strikes in recent decades. In most of them, it ordered both sides to accept the last offers on the bargaining table.

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