From Iceland — Government Passes Law Making Airline Strike Illegal

Government Passes Law Making Airline Strike Illegal

Published May 15, 2014

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Maarten Visser

A new law will put striking workers in violation of the law, although the law itself is not without its detractors – even from within management.

The law in question, introduced by Minister of the Interior Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, would make any kind of interrupting of the workplace at Keflavík International Airport – be it a strike, half-day strike, or sit-in – illegal. If a collective bargaining agreement between the striking workers and management is not reached by June 1, the matter will be referred to a special committee consisting of one representative of The Professional Pilots Union (FÍA), the Confederation of Icelandic Employers (SA) and one judge from the Supreme Court. This committee will then in turn decide on the new collective bargaining agreement by July 1.

The law is a controversial one, as the right to strike is protected by Article 75 of the Icelandic constitution, and may only be limited “if it is necessary to a democratic society due to national security or public interest” by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The legality of the ban on the strike is, therefore, subject to interpretation. In fact, Hanna Birna cited Article 8, RÚV reports, for submitting the ban for parliamentary approval.

Unsurprisingly, airline pilots are not happy with the law, MBL reports. FÍA director Örn­ólf­ur Jóns­son told reporters, “We have the law on our side and we are very unhappy with [the ban]. There’s a lot of anger amongst us.”

At the same time, even management has taken issue with the law. RÚV reports that Icelandair director Björgólfur Jóhannsson puts priority on “having a collective bargaining agreement with all of our employees, and pilots are no exception,” adding that he believes the best outcome for all involved would be a collective bargaining agreement established between the concerned parties.

That being the case, it is expected that labour talks could shift into high gear to prevent the matter from being taken to a 3-person committee – and to prevent striking workers from being arrested.

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