Danish Dental Hygienists Strike Back

Thursday 12 November 2020

With the Covid-19 pandemic hitting Europe hard, more than 4,000 Danish dental hygienists and members of HK Privat faced intense pressure by coronavirus restrictions and a first-time “NO” to their demands for a safer workplace by the Danish Dental Association (DDA). But thanks to an innovative, social media-focused campaign, HK members mobilized with enough enthusiasm and forcefulness to win a robust sectoral agreement, grow their union, and deliver hope to working Danes. For this extraordinary achievement HK Privat is one of the recipients of UNI’s Breaking Through Award 2020.

“The Covid-19 pandemic could not stop the determined dental workers of HK Privat, who took their fight to social media and won a remarkable victory,” said Christy Hoffman General Secretary of UNI Global Union. “This, mostly female, low-paid employees, are the frontline workers who keep their clinics running in the eye of the pandemic. They deserve our respect and recognition, but mostly they deserve decent jobs.”

The dental hygienists tend to work in small clinics of four or five employees, without much contact with other workers, so organizing workplace-by-workplace is nearly impossible. That is why it was critical to strengthen their sectoral agreement with the DDA for increased protections and raises that improve the lives of workers during the pandemic and beyond.

“Our dental assistants are a special kind of member group,” said Anja C Jense Vice Chair of HK Privat. “They are very fragmented working in small clinics and working face to face with the boss. We needed to empower them to stand together while being apart and convince them that this was a battle that we would be able to win for them. And we needed to do it without ever meeting them in person because of the corona restrictions imposed in Denmark.”

“An important part of a being member of a union is sticking together, said Stina Lykkemark, dental assistant and member of HK Privat. “Unfortunately, I work in an industry where we often need our union. HK is up against massive forces and yet they we fought to ensure our right to a pay increase, freedom during child’s sick day, additional education and much more.”

UNI’s Breaking Through Awards recognise unions who have built union strength through innovative organising campaigns and built union strength in the face of adversity. The other winners this year include the SDA in Australia, CUPW in Canada, and HSWU Ghana.

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