From Iceland — Labour Dispute Heats Up At Aluminium Smelter

Labour Dispute Heats Up At Aluminium Smelter

Published January 23, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
HRV Engineering

Workers at the aluminium smelter in Straumsvík may take further action to have their demands met, as collective bargaining negotiations are currently at a stand-still.

RÚV reports that workers and management at the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminium smelter in Straumsvík had a brief and fruitless meeting yesterday morning. The meeting is just one event in a labour dispute that has left workers without an operating collective bargaining agreement since January 1, 2015.

“It is quite clear that we need to put on some pressure in order to get [management] to take negotiations seriously,” workers spokesperson Gylfi Ingvarsson told reporters.

It was forecast that the smelter would be shut down altogether last December, but workers were convinced to continue negotiations with management. These negotiations have not advanced; in fact, Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh recently issued a statement that employees would not be receiving any kind of pay raise this year – despite the company seeing profits in the billions last year.

“We are actually going nowhere because there’s nothing to negotiate,” Guðmundur Ragnarsson, the chairperson of The Icelandic Union of Marine Engineers and Metal Technicians (VM), told reporters. “We’ve been waiting to hear what the parent company intends to do in Iceland. So we’re at a stand-still.”

A meeting on what action workers might take to increase pressure on management will be had after the weekend.

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