Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson says he was surprised by news that Government Offices had fired 18 professional cleaners, saying that trust plays a crucial role in the work environment.
Sigmundur told listeners of radio show Reykjavík síðdegis that he was surprised to see photos of the Prime Minister’s office used in news stories that Government Offices had fired 18 members of their cleaning staff. Government Offices covers all the ministries, the Prime Minister’s amongst them.
“There [in the Prime Minister’s office] we’re not firing anybody,” he said. “We are very happy with our cleaning staff, and see them as a part of the team. They actually do a very good job, and [firing them] has not been in the picture.”
The Prime Minister added that trust was a crucial part of having cleaning staff, on account of all the sensitive documents in the offices.
As reported, the 18 employees were all women earning low wages, with most of them over the age of 50. Trade union Efling objected to the firings, saying:
“Over the past few years, we have seen cutbacks made to Efling members who work for the government. This particular group were 700 strong in 2008, and are 400 today. The terminations are Landspítali were the heaviest. Government offices believe they can save a lot of money by contracting out the work that Efling members do, as cleaning companies are constantly competing to underbid each other, which ultimately leads to lower wages and an increased workload for our members.”