From Iceland — Sour Grapes & Stuff

Sour Grapes & Stuff

Published November 9, 2012

Sour Grapes & Stuff

Most Awesome Letter of the Issue
I am so irritated, furious, incensed, etc about something that I have to vent.
I am a former employee of one of the aluminum factories and I feel they are really screwing people over that are on medical leave.  I needed to have surgery last year and was going to be off work for 3 months. That was no problem with my employer.  When I was released to go back to work by my surgeon, my regular doctor decided that I needed to have physical therapy for 3 months. So, a total of 6 months off work on MEDICAL LEAVE.
Well, imagine my surprise, when my employer got the papers saying that I would be off a total of 6 months, they fired me.  I was quite surprised and when I got the official letter from them, I took it to my work union and they said “Yes, they can do that.”  What??? It’s illegal!  I went to a specialist doctor at my one year checkup to be sure everything was 100%, which it is.  He asked me about my job and I told him the situation.  His reply?  “That’s against the law.”  I told him it was in our work union contract and he said that it still was not legal-he thought.
I have asked several other people and they all agreed-yes, it’s against the law to be fired when you are on medical leave.  BUT, because the company and work union agreed on it and put it in the contract-that makes it legal and ok to do.  Just because people agree on it and put it in writing doesn’t make it legal!
Is it worth my time to contact a lawyer?  Apparently I’m not the only one this has happened to.  The only good side of this?  The HR person that sent me the letter got fired shortly after that for …. missing work.
I would sign my name to this, but I’m about 99% sure that I’m the only one in Iceland with this name.  Repercussions are a worry.
Signed, Unemployed
Dear Unemployed,
This is astonishing and very upsetting. It doesn’t seem like we’ve ever covered issues of union practices in our pages, so we got in touch with Halldór Oddsson at the Icelandic Labour Union (ASÍ). Here’s what he told us:
“Under most labour union contracts, workers have to earn their medical leave, so depending on how long one has worked at their job it could be anywhere from two weeks to six months. This worker should contact their union again to make sure how much sick leave time they had earned, and if they were fired before it ran out, they should definitely contact a lawyer.
Our official opinion is that firing someone who has used up their sick leave it is not illegal, but it is unethical. Sickness is not grounds for termination. But you and I both know that even if the real reason is sickness, many companies will cite another reason for termination. This is absolutely not okay.”
We are really sorry to hear you’ve had to put up with all this job nonsense on top of getting sick. Here’s a nice meal, courtesy of us, that will hopefully elevate your spirits. Until justice is served, burgers are.

I am a lifelong (50+ years) fan of Science Fiction and tend to see things thru that lens.  When I visited Iceland (Rekjavik and Westfjords) last month there were many, many things that tugged at my SciFi bump: the wickedly-clever use of volcanic depths to heat water and buildings for the entire city and outlying areas, and to generate electricity, the excellent futuristic designs of buildings, both mundane (horse barn’s beams of curved laminated wood, a torus-shaped apartment house, computer-controlled greenhouses monitored/controlled over the internet) and civic (the Harpa opera house, stunning in concept and complexity, even has variable-speed escalators.  Geodesic dome house in Isafjordur, part buried in a hillside, the other half glazed for light/heat gathering. The Rekjavik church that looks like the Buran, stood on its tail. The hexagonally-arranged cylindrical municipal hot water tanks with the geodesic dome restaurant, Perlan, on top).
As I drove northward, toward the Westfjords, houses became farther and farther apart, some many miles from their nearest neighbor. The abandoned-looking A-frame hut at the midpoint of Road 608 in the midst of barren fields covered with tiny rocks (looking very much like the recent fotos sent back by Curiosity).  Thingvellir and its history (human and geological) was solemnly impressive. The witchcraft museum in Holmavik sent me solidly back in time, thinking how it must’ve been to be Jon Laerdi Gudmundsson, a genius of his time (1574-1658), nearly burnt alive because of his ideas [branching thought: true geniuses are born all over the planet, probably several per century, but most don’t survive due to their human environment]. Isafjordur in summer appeared as if it was perpetually preparing for winter, and then it hit me: when humanity finally does set up colonies on other planets or satellites (Moon, Mars, Io, Aldebaran III, or Formalhaut IV), those will probably look very much like the isolated farms and Isafjordur itself does right now: small, sturdy houses painted bright, primary colors, siding of nailed-on corrugated galvanized sheeting, inhabitants tough enough to endure harsh climate variabilities, as well as psychological obstacles involving loneliness, insanity, group-task organization, personal focus, and dedication. Thriving, not just surviving, is the goal.
In conclusion, Icelanders, long may you wave!  Please continue what you’ve been doing but attend to this old saying:
“The smart person learns from their mistakes.
The wise person learns from the mistakes of others.”  
Please, please, please learn from the stupidities of others who’ve bespoil’t their environment in thought and deed.  Here, for example, is a worthy goal: disconnect from petroleum.  You already have electricity generation well in hand, and if you could move towards expansion of electric vehicles, especially the plug-in rechargeable ones for in-city use, you would be heading towards a wiser future and as a shining example for the rest of us to emulate.  Emulate, I say!  Not Emir-ate.
Best wishes, MJ
Dear MJ,
Well, this is awfully embarrassing. It seems someone at customs forgot to wave their memory-wiping wand over you before you boarded the plane (it looks just like a metal detector, cool decoy). And now you slipped out with our secret spaceperson knowledge! WE’VE MADE A HUGE MISTAKE!
Okay, I kid, but your ideas are intriguing and we wish to subscribe to your newsletter. I think the people of Ísafjörður are far too pragmatic and self-deprecating to think of themselves as pioneers for space-age architecture, but who knows! Maybe you have convinced them. And who knows – maybe Hallgrímskírkja will rocket out of the ground on one of our New Year’s fireworks displays! Keep watching the skies, MJ.

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