By Johannes Birkebaek
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Thousands of people gathered in Copenhagen on Sunday to protest a government bill that would scrap public holidays to help Fund increased defense spending.
The demonstrations were organized by the country’s largest trade unions against the abolition of the Great Day of Prayer, a Christian holiday that falls on the fourth Friday after Easter and dates back to 1686.
The trade unions organizing the protest are estimated to have at least 000,50 in what will be the largest demonstration in Denmark in over a decade. Local police did not give such a crowd estimate.
The holiday was proposed in December to help raise taxes to boost defense spending after Ukraine’s war as part of a sweeping overhaul by the new government aimed at overcoming challenges to the country’s welfare model plan.
Government proposes to meet NATO defense spending target of 2% of GDP three years ahead of schedule. It said most of the extra 4.5 billion Danish kroner (63 million U.S. dollars) needed to meet the target could be made up by canceling higher taxes expected for the holidays.
However, unions, opposition lawmakers and economists have questioned the effectiveness of the proposal. Some economists say this is unlikely to have long-term effects as workers find other ways to adjust their hours.
In the Danish labor market, wages and working hours are largely regulated by collective agreements between well-organized groups of workers and employers without state intervention.
However, the government, which holds a slim majority in parliament, said it intended to push through the bill despite any opposition.
“Usually these things are discussed with working people, now that model is about to be overturned. We are protesting and want to make them listen,” said plumber Stig De Blanck 654 said he was demonstrating against parliament in front of a crowd.
Danes work fewer hours than most of Europe, according to the OECD.
(This story has been refiled to remove the extra “a” in paragraph 1)