Police around the country used traffic stops to draw attention to their lack of a collective bargaining agreement, and to demand the right to strike.
RÚV reports that police in Iceland have been without a valid collective bargaining agreement for the past 135 days now. In addition, police do not have the right to strike, and feel as though they have little means by which to improve their terms of employment.
For this reason, police all over Iceland engaged in traffic stops between 14:30 and 15:00 yesterday, bringing attention to the issue to citizens they stopped on the road. Police say no one was fined or arrested during the operation, although traffic was slowed in some areas.
This is not the first time police have used direct action to improve their collective bargaining terms. Some months ago, many police officers assembled in front of the Ministry of the Interior in squad cars and on motorcycles, blew their horns for a while, and then dispersed.
Police have wanted the right to strike for years now. Icelandic police once had the right to go on strike, but this was rescinded in 1986.
Frímann B. Baldursson, the vice chairperson of LL, told reporters last month that state officials have made it clear that the right to strike will not be on the collective bargaining table without legislation backing it up. Eyrún Eyþórsdóttir, an alternate MP for the Left-Greens, submitted a bill supporting this right during the previous parliamentary session, but it never made it out of committee.
“The average police officer would probably not go on strike,” he said. “There would probably be a definition set for what is considered security work within the police force. There are plenty of jobs within the force that are not considered security work.”
The proposal already has support from some members of parliament. Independence Party MP and former police officer Vilhjálmur Árnason, for one, says he has discussed the idea with both the Independence Party chairperson Bjarni Benediktsson and with Minister of the Interior Ólöf Nordal, also of the Independence Party. Social Democrat MP Helgi Hjörvar told reporters he considers it “natural” that the police would want the right to strike.
“I think it is understandable that they would head in this direction,” he said. “But it would, of course, be best for them and for society as a whole if their collective bargaining terms could be ensured without having to resort to striking.”