"No One Can Be Forced To Work Overtime" - The Reykjavik Grapevine

“No One Can Be Forced To Work Overtime”

Published May 16, 2014

Photos by
Daniel Blok

Despite a strict ban on anything resembling a strike where airline pilots are concerned, this has not stopped them from fighting back.

Vísir reports that airline workers are unhappy with a newly passed law, introduced by Minister of the Interior Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, that makes any kind of interrupting of the workplace at Keflavík International Airport – be it a strike, half-day strike, or sit-in – illegal.

“We will respect the law as it is,” Örn­ólf­ur Jóns­son, the director of The Professional Pilots Union (FÍA), told reporters. “At the same time, I want to point out that no one can be forced to work overtime. People still have every right to decide for themselves if they’ll take [overtime] or not.”

While refusing to work overtime may seem ineffective, the summertime is an exceptionally busy time for airline pilots in Iceland. The greatly increased number of trips often means pilots and mechanics are called in to work overtime. Refusing to work overtime can have a significant impact on air traffic – as Vísir also reports, Icelandair was forced to cancel flights to and from Denver, today and tomorrow, due to pilots and mechanics refusing overtime.

As reported, 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 interprettation. In fact, Hanna Birna cited Article 8, RÚV reports, for submitting the ban for parliamentary approval.

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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