From Iceland — News In Brief: May

News In Brief: May

Published May 12, 2015

News In Brief: May
Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Marco Evaristti

As per hallowed Icelandic media tradition, Grapevine joined in the fun of kicking off the month of April with fake news. In fact, all our news on April Fool’s was fake, except for one story. In this case, that the government was auctioning off old diplomatic cars. That actually happened, in case you were certain this was fake news and thereby missed your chance to buy a used Benz.

The Interior Ministry leak scandal has nearly wound to a close. Tony Omos received a settlement from former Minister of Interior assistant Gísli Freyr Valdórsson for an undisclosed amount, and former Minister of Interior Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir has returned to Parliament. In her first interview since her resignation last November, she conceded that she should have resigned sooner from her post. Meanwhile, Tony is still in Italy, separated from Evelyn Glory Joseph and their child, who remain in Iceland.

No story in April inspired quite as much outrage from our readers as that of Chilean artist Marco Evaristti, who poured red dye into the geyser Strokkur with the effect of turning its eruptions pink. Police have charged with him breaking the Nature Conservation Act, issuing a fine of 100,000 ISK, which he says he will fight in court. While the artist contends the dye he used was perfectly harmless, and that he was trying to make a point about environmentalism, the anger from the general public has been allegedly so severe that he says he has received death threats.

It’s collective bargaining seasoning again, and this time, labour unions are fed up. Two major union umbrella groups—the Federation of General and Special Workers in Iceland (SGS) and Flóabandalagið—have already begun a series of work stoppages, likely to culminate in a general strike near the end of May. The primary demand on the table where SGS is concerned is to raise the minimum wage for their workers to 300,000 ISK per month—a demand supported, according to a Gallup poll, by more than 90% of the population. A total of 56,000 workers could strike by the end of May.

The sage advice to pack clothes for any weather condition when visiting Iceland is especially applicable this year, as meteorologists are making long-term predictions that this summer will be cloudy and cold. So, pretty much like last summer. And the one before that. On the bright side, weather predictions beyond the five-day range are a real roll of the dice, so who knows? Maybe the glory days of the summer of 2012 will visit us again.

Pirate Party captain Birgitta Jónsdóttir told reporters that if she were minister of the interior, she would grant NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden asylum in Iceland. The declaration may even be prescient, as the latest Gallup poll shows the party now at 30.1%—the largest in the country—and a new poll from MMR shows their support is greater than that of the two parties in the ruling coalition combined. Whether that momentum will carry over the next two years until new elections (presuming the wildly unpopular current government finishes its term) remains to be seen.

Tourism is a booming industry in Iceland, and its effects were demonstrable all month long. A tour guide has bemoaned the lack of outdoor toilets in parts of the countryside, as apparently not enough buses are outfitted with toilets of their own. A poll conducted for the City of Reykjavík showed that most Icelanders are finding it increasingly difficult to get a table at their favourite restaurants and cafés, laying the blame squarely on tourists for the lack of seating. However, opportunities abound, as there are so many tourism-related jobs opening up that there aren’t enough Icelanders to staff them all, and so foreigners are needed to apply. Your chance to work in a guesthouse in the countryside awaits!

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