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Kent Petersen: “Nothing in life is free – but this is a really good collective agreement”

A noticeable pay rise, improved maternity and paternity leave and two important working groups. The President of Finansforbundet is really pleased with the collective agreement that has just been reached. And he emphasises that the price paid for the many benefits is reasonable.

A pay rise that you can feel.

When asked about the most important victory of the recently concluded negotiations with the Danish Employers' Association for the Financial Sector, President Kent Petersen is certain:

“The most important victory is that we achieved what the bargaining conference entrusted us with, which was to ensure a noticeable pay rise,” he says.

Kent Petersen shook hands with his counterparts in FA on 1 March after a negotiation process, which along the way had to call in the Conciliation Board.

Pay rise landing exactly where it should

The parties finally concluded an agreement, ensuring, among other things, a pay rise of 8.2 per cent over the two-year collective agreement.

And this is a high pay rise that has “landed exactly where it should”, says Kent Petersen. He advises against making direct comparisons of the level of this collective agreement with that of other collective agreements that have recently been concluded for the rest of the private labour market. It would be like comparing apples to oranges.

The other collective agreements measure the pay rises in money terms. Our pay rises are measured as percentages. In other words, if you compare a DKK amount to a minimum pay, that’s a relatively high percentage. But if we take a closer look, we are at a quite reasonable level compared to the rest of the private labour market and at an appropriate level for us in the context of the general economic situation”, explains Kent Petersen, pointing also to the added wage drift in the sector, which should also be considered.

A good price

But when you are able to get something at the negotiation table, you have to give in on other points.

“Obviously, the FA also had many demands they wanted to push through. And normally, when you get a high pay rise, you have to give something back, but when I think about it, I think we have landed at a quite reasonable level,” says Kent Petersen, highlighting three areas in which the employers got something in return.

For example, the time bank has been adjusted to a balance of maximum 400 hours against the previous 481 hours.

“Only very few people have a balance as high as 481 hours. Effectively, it just means that any additional work beyond 400 hours must be paid in cash, but it is still a quite good balance to have”, he says.

In addition, the fixed salary level will not be adjusted before year two of the collective agreement, and there are also changes to the way you leave your job.

“For example, if you fail to meet the demands of your job, you might not necessarily get additional severance pay,” continues Kent Petersen.

He emphasises once again that it is a reasonable price in return for a better pay cheque to the members.

“Nothing in life is free – but this is a really good collective agreement. And sometimes you also have to measure your collective agreement by the things you managed to avoid,” he says, referring to the fact that employers usually demand much more to ensure flexibility if they are to accept pay rises.

Why working groups are important

Even though Kent Petersen describes the new collective agreement as relatively slim – in the sense that the amount of changes, adjustments and requirements is relatively limited – there are still quite many things worth mentioning.

Apart from the pay rises, he also points to improvements in paternity and maternity leave for fathers and co-mothers, which increases from 16 to 26 weeks with full pay and pension, a satisfactory victory.

He would also like to highlight the two working groups on data ethics and late career matters as important elements of the agreement.

He ensures us that although the two working groups might sound a little vague on paper, this is not the case. On the contrary:

“The establishment of a working group signifies that the parties to the collective agreement acknowledge a theme that deserves attention. Now, we will use the next collective agreement period to find out if there are employer and employee rights and obligations that we can write into the collective agreement, while also agreeing at a more ethical level how we would like development to take place.”

Kent Petersen gives the example of the recent stories about the fashion giant H&M that wants to fire employees based on algorithms, intelligence and personality tests.

“I find examples like these important to talk about, so that we can agree that this is not the way forward for the financial sector. We also need to discuss how much we want artificial intelligence to be part of our daily lives, and how to handle it,” explains Kent Petersen.

Hopes the members vote in favour

The idea for the other working group on late career matters is to take a look at the provisions in the area of senior politics and have them updated in terms of the wishes expressed by both employers and employees for a longer working life.

“We need to make it more attractive to continue having a relation to a workplace, without it necessarily meaning having to work 37 hours a week,” says Kent Petersen.

All things considered, he is quite happy with the agreement.

“In all modesty, I find that this is a good result. And I hope that the members will acknowledge it by voting in favour”, he concludes.