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Danish report Danish report
by Euro Reporter
2010-07-20 08:15:53
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Row over Danish plan to cut immigrants' pay

A bitter political row has erupted in Denmark over proposals by a member of the ruling party to slash the minimum wage for immigrant workers by half to help them gain a foothold in the jobs market. The controversial plan has been put forward by Karsten Lauritzen, the immigration spokesman for Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen's Venstre liberal party, which rules in a coalition with the conservatives. "Denmark's high minimum wage acts as a barrier which prevents immigrants from getting jobs. If we want to get them out of the ghettos we will have to pay them less," Mr Lauritzen said. Denmark's immigrant population is estimated to number 450,000 – or around 12 per cent of the population.

Mr Lauritzen has proposed paying immigrant workers around 50 Danish Krone (€6.50) an hour for the first six months, compared to the country's average minimum wage of 100 Krone per hour, arguing that a two-tier wage system would help them into jobs that might then lead to regular employment. The proposal has been vehemently opposed by Denmark's leftwing parties, but is also causing a ruckus within his own party. Immigration Minister Birthe Hornbech, a fellow Venstre member, has clashed publicly with Mr Lauritzen, even though he is her department's spokesman. "The idea is disagreeable because it stigmatises immigrants," she said.

The far-right Danish People's Party, who have run on an anti-immigration platform, has said the proposal amounts to "discrimination" because it could take jobs away from ordinary Danes. However, Mr Lauritzen's plan has won sympathy from the Labour Minister, Inger Stojberg, and from Naser Khader, the immigration spokesman from Venstre's conservative party coalition partners. Mr Khader, who is himself from an immigrant background, is in favour of the idea. Yet he argues that low pay rates could only apply to immigrants arriving in the country without any knowledge of Danish and whose training qualifications were not recognised. He cites the case of well-educated immigrants from countries such as Iraq, who he insists would readily work for lower pay if it meant having a steady job.


Adjustable prototype green houses built in Denmark

Two eco-houses in Taastrup, Denmark have been built by the Danish Technological Institute in cooperation with Henning Larsen Architects to serve as a high-tech laboratory intended to guide the future of green building. EnergyFlex House features two 2,100 square foot structures packed with the latest in green design technology and materials. One structure serves as a laboratory to study and document green systems and materials, while the other houses a family full time.

What makes the building unique, besides its status as the first Danish energy neutral single-family house, is its adaptability to changing conditions. Unlike a traditional model house, this building is not a final product, but a tool to advance the innovation of ideas and prototypes that can be brought to market. It’s a flexible platform that can be easily adapted and modified by adding or removing components to study various housing types. The facility opened in late 2009 and has already generated valuable information for research of new sustainable systems.

The Danish Technological Institute describes the prototype as “a playground for energy efficient technology” and it’s easy to see why. An online dashboard keeps tabs on all the energy used in the house live around the clock. The house monitors 790 data points including its solar heating and photovoltaic capacity along with its electricity use and water consumption. It even keeps tabs on whether the electric car in the garage is charged and it’s smart enough to project results into the future.

Researchers hope the project will lead to new building practices that will significantly reduce Europe’s carbon footprint in the coming years. Overall, the project’s goal is to generate optimal sustainable technologies while maintaining the cost-effectiveness necessary to bring new systems to market. The Danish Technological Institute has plans to add third structure to the complex in order to study design, indoor climate, and work life in office buildings.


Colleagues unwilling to support workplace injury claimants

Representatives from the country’s largest labour unions report that injured people’s co-workers are increasingly remaining silent if their statements would harm their employer’s case, according to the newsletter A4. According to clerical union HK, which reports having about 200 work-related injury cases open at any one time, as many as 30 percent of members making claims find their co-workers are unwilling to make a statement on their behalf.

HK counsellor Anne Marie Bryde explained that in cases where an employee’s word comes up against an employer’s, a statement from another employee can be decisive. She said cases dealing with stress or other psychological pressures are especially reliant on corroborating statements, since no physical sign of the ailment can be seen.

‘Proving the case requires a witness who can confirm that the boss often dumped loads of work on the employee just before heading home,’ Bryde said. The reasons that co-workers remain silent, the unions say, range from fear of reprisals to concern that they themselves might be at fault, or because they don’t like the co-worker.

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