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Danish Lawmakers Vote To End Strike

May 7, 1998

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) _ Parliament voted overwhelmingly Thursday to end an 11-day national strike, ordering workers to return to their jobs.

Trade unions and employers were expected to comply with the order, which has the force of law. The vote was 95-12.

During the lengthy debate, some 1,000 union workers demonstrated outside parliament on the eve of a holiday. Workers chanted slogans blasting the prime minister because they wanted him to stay out of labor negotiations.

The turnout was slight, given the magnitude of the strike. About 450,000 union members, mostly in the private sector, walked off the job April 27 to oppose a contract with employers that their own leaders had approved last March. Another 60,000 workers were locked out of their jobs.

``Solidarity isn’t what it used to be,″ construction worker Ronnie Bertelsen said of the poor turnout. ``Many don’t turn up because they think others will do it instead.″

Schools, mass transit, hospital and other vital public services were curtailed during the strike for lack of gas, staff, and proper sanitary conditions.

The main issue was a sixth week of annual paid vacation.

Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen’s compromise plan split the difference between trade unions and employers. Workers will get two extra days’ vacation, and those with young children would get three extra personal days a year.

The Confederation of Trade Unions urged protest demonstrations in major towns after the government intervened. But outside parliament, where 115,000 rallied in 1985, relatively few heeded the call.

Most of the union anger was directed at the prime minister because he forged a compromise plan. In Denmark, there is a strong tradition of having the government stay out of labor negotiations.

``We have to make this protest statement against Nyrup (Rasmussen) but when that is done, we’ll go home. After all, the deal we got isn’t that bad,″ said printer Gert Simonsen.

Friday is a national holiday, so economic life was expected to start returning to normal Saturday.

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