From Iceland — General Strike Looking More Likely

General Strike Looking More Likely

Published April 12, 2015

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Maria Alva Roff

With little room for agreement between labour and management on the subject of increasing the minimum wage, a series of strikes are likely to begin at the end of the month, culminating in a general strike in late May.

MBL reports that a negotiations meeting between representatives from the Federation of General and Special Workers in Iceland (SGS) and Business Iceland (SA) ended without any headway being reached. SGS’s principle demand, that the minimum wage for their workers be raised to 300,000 ISK over the next three years, was rejected outright by management.

SA argued that raising the minimum wage would increase inflation and instability. Björn Snæ­björns­son, the chairperson for SGS, said it was out of the question that people working for the lowest wages should bear responsibility for economic instability. Neither side has been able to approach an accord, and talks have been postponed until April 17.

At the same time, voting for holding a strike will begin amongst SGS workers tomorrow, and will extend until April 20. If workers vote in favour and no agreement has been reached with SA, all labour unions within SGS – which comprises 50,000 workers – will hold work stoppages on April 30, May 6 and 7, and May 19 and 20. If that fails to encourage agreement, a general strike will begin on May 26.

“Strikes are an absolutely last resort,” Björn told reporters. “But when people don’t get any response or ideas to their suggestions, they’re forced to [go on strike].”

Currently, the base salary of an SGS worker is 201,317 ISK, raising to 214,000 after four months’ work. Most workers will not see more than 222,030 per month after seven years on the job. Of the 19 trade unions who would go on strike if the vote passes, a great many of them are made of general laborers, but 42% work in wholesale food service (slaughterhouses, fish factories and the like), and 32% work in the tourist industry and cleaning services.

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