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Crisis at the top of Denmark’s trade union movement

Crisis at the top of Denmark’s trade union movement

| Text: Marie Preisler, photo: LH

There is a change of leadership at the Danish Trade Union Confederation FH after allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

International Workers’ Day on 1 May 2023 did not turn out to be the customary day of celebration for the Danish trade union movement. Lizette Risgaard, President of the Danish Trade Union Confederation FH, had to step down the day before after allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards a number of young men in the trade union movement.  

“I have said sorry and apologised unreservedly to everyone who has felt their personal boundaries breached,” wrote the trade union boss on Facebook. 

FH immediately ordered an investigation into what the men had told the media anonymously about having been inappropriately touched by their top boss Lizette Risgaard during parties and at work. According to several sources, the allegations were known to FH Director Michael Jacobsen but no action had been taken – until now. The Director has been suspended.

Power struggle expected

When the investigation concludes, probably in the middle of June this year, Denmark’s largest trade union confederation will launch a formal process to find a new President. Speculations as to who might replace Risgaard have already started, but there is no obvious crown prince or princess. There is also no precedence for who should be given the position, so several observers expect a power struggle between public and private unions within FH for the prestigious post.

Lizette Risgaard was the first President of FH, which was created after the merger of LO and the Confederation of Professionals FTF in 2019. Before that, she was the LO President and she is particularly proud of the merger as she now looks back on her long career at the top of the Danish trade union movement, which has now come to a sudden end. 

“I am proud of the many things I have been allowed to spearhead in my time as LO and FH President. Especially the merger of LO and FTF which gathered the trade union movement. The many tripartite agreements with different governments. The right to a dignified end to work for people who are worn out, giving them the right to early retirement – the first reforms for decades that benefited employees,” wrote Lizette Risgaard on Facebook after stepping down as FH President. 

Leaves a vacuum 

She also mentions the fight to keep the Store bededag (“All Prayers’ Day”) as a public holiday as one of her failures.

“We might have lost the fight for Store bededag, but we defended the Danish agreement model.”

Her departure and the vacuum at the top of the Danish trade union movement come at a very inopportune time. The day before she stepped down, the government with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen at the helm called for new tripartite negotiations between the government, employers and trade unions on the government’s proposed dismantling of the senior pension (earmarked senior workers who have poor health after many years in the labour market).

It also looks like there will be tripartite negotiations on extraordinary pay rises for public sector workers. FH’s current Deputy President Morten Skov Christiansen has been made acting FH President.

Lizette Risgaard

was the first President of the Danish Trade Union Confederation FH between 1 January 2019 to 30 April 2023, when she chose to step down after several allegations of inappropriate behaviour.


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