From Iceland — Government Getting More Involved In Nurses' Strike

Government Getting More Involved In Nurses’ Strike

Published June 6, 2015

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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Screenshot from Debt Relief conference

The government will form a “conciliation committee” to try to end the nurses’ and university workers’ strike, and may be preparing legislation as well.

Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson has announced that the government will form the committee to focus exclusively on settling differences between workers and management in the nurses’ and university workers’ strike, which began at the end of May, RÚV reports. The formation of the committee, which was proposed by the parliamentary opposition, was appointed by the Prime Minister as a compromise that falls short of submitting legislation that would force the strike to end.

Yesterday, about 1,000 protesters converged on the Government Offices in support of the strike, Stundin reports. Many of these protesters were striking workers, but a great many were other university workers who, while not on strike, told reporters they were on the scene to show their solidarity.

Despite repeated assurances from Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson that “we are not, as long as talks are ongoing, submitting legislation on the strike”, sources close to Vísir report that legislation that would compel striking workers to return to their jobs is currently in the works, and may be submitted as early as Monday, if no agreement was been reached.

As reported, Ólafur G. Skúlason, the director of the Icelandic Nurses’ Association, told RÚV that such legislation would not solve the problem, but would “add fuel to the fire” in driving nurses away from Iceland.

“I have heard from some nurses that if a law is passed [ordering them back to work], they will not accept this,” he said. “As I have said before, we are trying to ensure that we have nurses here in the long term, and have them working in Iceland. We are losing them to other professions, and to nursing jobs overseas, and I think that [this law] would just add fuel to the fire.”

In total, 2,100 nurses in Iceland are currently on strike, including 1,400 at the National University Hospital.

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