How a Danish trade union is empowering migrant construction workers to demand equal rights

Author: Snigdha Bansal
This article is part of Changing the Narrative. Articles in this series are written by student or early career journalists who took part in The Local’s training course on solutions-focused migration reporting. Find out more about the project here.
Eastern European construction workers in Denmark have been plagued by unequal pay and subpar working conditions. Now the frontrunners of the Danish labour movement are trying to make them feel welcome.

When you walk into the BJMF Trade Union in Copenhagen, you’re greeted by posters in about six or seven languages, besides Danish, plastered on the wall. These signs will tell you at a glance about the union for construction workers, how you can get in touch with the right people, and about the many initiatives directed at the migrant construction workers that form an integral part of the union.

In Denmark, where Danish is the primary language of communication and attempts to communicate in other languages are often met with resistance, confusion, or even dismissal, this is a rare occurrence.

In recent years, the 3F Bygge-, Jord-, og Milj√łarbejdernes Fagforening (BJMF) or the 3F Construction, Earth and Environmental Workers’ Union, has come a long way in its journey towards advancing the rights of migrant construction workers in Denmark. However, things weren’t always this way.

The Eastward enlargement of the European Union in 2004 and 2007 caused an influx of Eastern European workers into the West, including Denmark. The promise of decent wages coupled with better working conditions drew many to trades like construction.

 

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