The Icelandic Environment Association has critcized the latest collective bargaining negotiations between labor, management and the government as placing too much emphasis on heavy industry.
Negotiations between The Confederation of Icelandic Labor Unions (ASÍ), the Confederation of Icelandic Employers (SA) and the government had been very heated over the past week, and followed closely, namely because the main focus was on how to renew Iceland’s job market. Both ASÍ and SA argued that the green light should be given for the construction of an aluminum smelter in Helguvík, along with other heavy industry projects.
Björgólfur Thorsteinsson, chairman of the Icelandic Environment Association, strongly disagrees. RÚV reports that he considers the emphasis on heavy industry “unnaturally one-sided”, and that balance was needed in the discussion. “The reason why I say that is because we have to think long-term, and bring more points of view into the discussion,” he said, adding that few outside parties had been given access to the negotiations.
Heavy industry is a contentious subject in Iceland. The Leftist-Greens, who share the coalition government with the Social Democrats, have been consistently strong opponents of aluminum smelters and other forms of heavy industry in Iceland as an economic solution, while the Social Dems have argued that some heavy industry could be beneficial. Both parties are feeling the pressure to create jobs now, and so environmental concerns, many fear, are taking a back seat to economic ones.