Union Official Wants To Change Law On Holiday Closings - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Union Official Wants To Change Law On Holiday Closings

Published December 27, 2015

Photos by
Rebecca Conway

A union official believes employers should decide if they want to close up on certain holidays or remain open, and make their own contracts with their employees to that effect.

By Icelandic law, designated holidays from the National Church – including Christmas and Easter – must be days of rest for employees, and church services cannot be disturbed by concerts, festivals or similar events. RÚV reports that Ólafía B. Rafnsdóttir, the chairperson of trade union VR, which covers retail workers, believes this law is outdated and needs to change.

“You see this stream of tourists that would be unheard of ten years ago,” she told reporters. “We have to be able to welcome people who come here, and there are also Icelanders who are maybe alone for the holidays and have to get help from somewhere, to go shopping, and find someplace to buy food.”

While restaurants, guesthouses, pharmacies and parking garages are permitted by law to be open on Christmas, retail stores are not. Ólafía proposes instead that employers be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not they stay open on these holidays. They would furthermore have to include this decision in their collective bargaining agreement with their employees.

According to the current collective bargaining agreement of most labour unions in Iceland, working on Christmas Day brings with it 90% overtime pay. Employers who would choose to stay open for the holidays would not be exempted from these terms.


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