Two Polish workers at a south Iceland guesthouse were subjected to exploitation that is tantamount to human trafficking, union officials say.
Fréttatíminn reports that two Polish women in their thirties came to Iceland in July 2014 and soon thereafter started working at the guesthouse. The mistreatment they received is now considered a gross violation of the collective bargaining agreement for workers in this industry, and the matter is now with the police.
The two women, who were unaware of their labour rights in Iceland and not informed of them by their employer, were made to work 10 hours per day, seven days a week, for €1,000 per month – far under the legal minimum wage for such work in Iceland, apart from the absence of overtime. The guesthouse owner reportedly urged them to not get a personal identification number, or kennitala, as required by law, telling them that to do so would result in their wages being taxed.
When another employee quit, the two were expected to take over that person’s duties. As such, their shifts increased to 15 hours per day, and they were expected to answer the guesthouse phone 24 hours per day. The guesthouse owner was reportedly often verbally abusive to them, witholding their pay, only to end up paying them 100,000 ISK for their troubles along with the warning that they not go to their union, as he said he had friends within the police.
The two went to their union anyway, and were told they were each owed at least 1 million ISK in back wages. The union furthermore considered their treatment tantamount to human trafficking, and filed charges with the police, who are investigating the matter.
If you arrive in Iceland, whether you are looking for work or already have a job waiting for you, it is vital that you know your rights as a worker in Iceland. Whether you are in a union or not, the collective bargaining agreement for your profession still applies. Workers in Iceland have the legal right to organize, contact their union to discuss their working conditions, and to inform themselves of their labour rights in Iceland.