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Supreme Court of Denmark

No claim to negotiate collective agreement 

Case no. 517/2007
Judgment 12 May 2009
 

The Union of Free Salaried Workers acting for

The Salaried Staff Association SAFT at Risø

vs.

The Danish Ministry of Finance, the State Employer’s Authority

 Intervener: Danish National Union of Metalworkers

Salaried Staff Association had no claim to negotiate or conclude a collective agreement with the Ministry of Finance

 On behalf of the Salaried Workers Association SAFT (Funktionærforeningen SAFT) at the National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy, Risø, the Union of Free Salaried Workers (Sammenslutningen af Frie Funktionærer) asked the State Employer’s Authority under the Ministry of Finance to conclude a collective agreement for research technicians employed at Risø. The motivation behind the request was that the majority of the research technicians employed at Risø were members of the Union. The Ministry refused this request. The reason for refusing the request was that the Ministry had already renewed the collective agreement for, among others, research technicians at Risø with the Danish National Union of Metalworkers (Dansk Metal). In addition, the Ministry aimed to reduce the number of parallel collective agreements with a view to creating transparency and simplifying the administration in this area. The Ministry would base the determination of the representation requirement on the total number of state-employed research technicians and assistant engineers.

 Following this, the Union of Free Salaried Workers acting for SAFT sued the Ministry of Finance claiming that the Ministry should recognise SAFT’s claim to negotiating a collective agreement for research technicians employed at Risø. The Ministry moved for rejection of the claim. The Danish National Union of Metalworkers acted as intervener for the Ministry.

The Supreme Court upheld that the Ministry of Finance by deciding not to negotiate or conclude a collective agreement with SAFT had not disregarded the general principles of public administration law. The Supreme Court gave importance to the facts that the courts had to be very cautious in their review of whether a rejection of a request to negotiate a collective agreement disregarded the general principles of public administration law, that the Ministry had stated a reasoned objective and that there were no special circumstances. The trade group that was the subject of SAFT’s claims was already covered by a collective agreement regulating the salary and working conditions for approx. 300 employees. Given the mere fact that SAFT with its 34 members could not be regarded as being representative in the agreement area, the Supreme Court held that the Ministry of Finance by deciding not to negotiate or conclude a collective agreement had not failed to fulfil the obligations laid down in Article 11 of the European Human Rights Convention, neither separately nor when read with Article 14 of the Convention. For this reason, the Supreme Court gave judgment in favour of the Ministry of Finance.

 The High Court had reached the same conclusion.

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