From Iceland — Fish Factory Worker Fights Back - With Song!

Fish Factory Worker Fights Back – With Song!

Published March 27, 2015

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Screencap from the Sveiattan video, animation by Þórarinn Ingi Tómasson

One fish factory worker has responded to the wage inequity in her workplace in the catchiest way possible: with music.

RÚV reports that HB Grandi fish factory workers in Akranes were recently “rewarded” for record profits at the company by being treated to free popsicles. The ice cream comes at a time when workers have been fighting for wage increases, and are likely to soon go on strike.

One worker, Jónína Björg Magnúsdóttir, decided she was not going to take this sitting down, and put together a response to management in the form of a song. Entitled “SVEIATTAN” (loosely translated as “For shame!”), the song was a joint effort from many fronts. The music, based on the song “Mamma þarf að djamma” (“Mom needs to party”) by famed musical comedy group Baggalútur, was donated free of charge by the original composer, Bragi Valdimar Skúlason. In addition, the labour union Verkalýðsfélag Akraness donated 40,000 ISK to pay for her studio time, but the text was composed entirely by Jónína.

While the song is in Icelandic, the animation makes the story fairly self-explanatory: despite the heaps of money acquired by the company owners, workers are given a pittance, but they are nonetheless resolved to get their wages increased. However, Jónína has graciously provided a translation of her text into English, which you can read below beneath the video.

The end of the video features two other HB Grandi workers, Jóhanna Kristín Þorsteinsdóttir and Sesselja Andrésdóttir, recounting a few facts regarding their situation. Namely, that HB Grandi workers average a monthly take-home pay of about 260,000 ISK, while fish processing companies have earned between 40 – 60 billion ISK per year.

“If there are 500 people who work at the HB Grandi plant, it would cost about 300 million ISK to raise their salaries by about 50,000 per year,” points out Sesselja. “That isn’t possible, but at the same time it’s possible to pay 2.7 billion ISK in dividends to the owner of the company. Isn’t it possible to lower the dividends to 2.4 billion, end of story, and everyone’s happy?”


Mothers work in fish factories to save the valuables, they reach out for the boss and give him a blow job but the bonus doesn’t get any higher.

We try to pull more strings, and not to offend anyone, and try not to offend the hand that is patting you on your back and says: Suck a little harder, this is perfect.

Wages, the wages don’t get any higher; not this year,
Wages, the wages don’t get any higher this year.

We constantly work more tons of fish
And we constantly fillet more cod
And when we get the prize, my brain freezes because we only got an ice cream cone.

Percentage and index rates only cause a lot of debts, and the poor working people will soon blow away but they at least stand still on the rug while taken dry from behind.

Sharpen, don’t forget to sharpen the fighting knives,
Sharpen don’t forget to sharpen your old teeth.

When we get enough of this crap, we’ll go to [Verkalýðsfélag Akraness chairperson] Villi Bigg in the union. He gets to fight for our rights, he is not born with a shut mouth.

Soon, soon the wages will go higher
Maybe this year, wages,
Maybe the wages will go higher and we will shed fewer tears.

Don’t forget to thank for your salary
Don’t forget to thank for your pension fund that this time took care of all your savings.

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