Unions Leaders Let Corporate Head Hear It - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Unions Leaders Let Corporate Head Hear It

Published April 16, 2015

Photos by
Natsha Nandabhiwat

After awarding himself a huge bonus, the chairman of a major fishing company has found himself at the receiving end of union backlash.

Kristján Loftsson (yes, that Kristján Loftsson), chairman of the board for fishing company HB Grandi, told RÚV that it was “out of the question” that he would reverse a decision to award a 3 billion ISK bonus and a 33% raise to the board directorship – a decision which, incidentally, comes at a time when HB Grandi’s employees were awarded for the company’s record profits by being given free popsicles, inspiring heated criticism from the workers themselves.

Union leaders have also given their thoughts on the matter, and have spared the diplomacy.

Gylfi Arnbjörnsson, president of the Confederation of Icelandic Labour Unions, told reporters in an interview that Kristján’s point of view was “so old fashioned and so off the map” that Gylfi wondered “whether he was dragged out of some old cave” before assuming chairmanship.

Vilhjálmur Birgisson, director of the labour union Verkalýðsfélags Akraness, took another, more ironic tack.

“A momentous occasion occurred at a board meeting of HB Grandi, that directorship salaries were raised by 33%,” he told reporters, quoting the union’s website. “This, Verkalýðsfélags Akraness welcomes, as it must mean that this applies to all fish workers within the company. Anything else would be utterly unbelievable.”

Employees of HB Grandi are likely to go on strike. The fishing industry in Iceland is still profit-generating, bringing in between 40 to 60 billion ISK each year. Meanwhile, HB Grandi workers earn a take-home pay of, an average, about 200,000 ISK per month.


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