From Iceland — Labour Leaders Prepare For Hard Road Ahead

Labour Leaders Prepare For Hard Road Ahead

Published October 30, 2014

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Maria Alva Roff

Leaders of several trade unions say they are getting ready to take a harder stance against management this year, with the need for solidarity amongst workers especially emphasised.

The temporary collective bargaining agreement that was agreed upon earlier this year is soon reaching a close, and many professions – such as music teachers and doctors – are already striking, or considering doing so. Vísir spoke with several trade union leaders about the negotiations to come, and what their position on the current labour situation is.

Kristján Þórður Snæbjarnarson, chairperson of the Icelandic Electricians Union, said solidarity amongst workers is the most important element of all. However, he feels that solidarity was broken by the last collective bargaining agreement, as some workers outside of the Icelandic Confederation of Labour Unions (ASÍ) received higher wage increases than those within it. This past year was supposed to be used to prepare for a long-term contract, he says, which was not done.

“There’s no trust anywhere, and nothing to celebrate about that we can present to workers in this country,” Guðmundur Ragnarsson, director of the Icelandic Union of Marine Engineers and Metal Technicians, told reporters. “A collective bargaining agreement based on low wages and that presumes little inflation has been completely exhausted.”

Vilhjálmur Birgisson, chairperson of the Akranes Trade Union, said that both fishing and tourist companies have profited well from the low currency exchange rate, and can safely afford to pay their workers a much higher salary than they currently do. Finnbogi Sveinbjörnsson, chairperson of the Westfjords Trade Union, expressed the same sentiment, telling reporters that the top priority should be to improve the wages of those worst off.

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