Most collective bargaining agreements between unions and management ran out March 1, and there is little optimism that new agreements will be made by Easter, MBL reports. As in years previous, the main point of contention rests on pay rises.
Gylfi Arnbjörnsson, the president of the Icelandic Confederation of Labour Unions (ASÍ), told reporters that there is “a wide gap” between contract negotiators on both sides, and that it is “very likely” workers will have to resort to strikes.
Management also shares a lack of optimism; in particular, over the matter of wage increases. Þorsteinn Víglundsson, the managing director of Business Iceland (SA), told reporters that negotiations have been slow going, and that there is little harmony between different unions as to how much of a wage increase they want.
The union coalition known as “Flóafélögin”, i.e., Efling, Hlíf and VSFK, have reportedly asked for pay raises of 20% across all salary levels. At the same time, the Federation of General and Special workers in Iceland (SGS) wants to see wage increases of 34-40%
Þorsteinn expressed concerns about the size of the wage increases, saying that they will lead to inflation – despite evidence to the contrary, that raising minimum wage has little to no effect on inflation.
The dispute comes as the end result of the settling of last year’s labour dispute, wherein demands for double-digit wage increases were met with offers for one-time cash payments, and an eventually agreed-upon contract to raise most wages by 2.8%. This agreement, however, was meant to be a temporary, stop-gap solution that would last only a year. As that year draws to a close, the prospects of a stronger agreement are not much better than they were in 2014.