Work stoppages to begin next week at the smelter will bring aluminium exports to a stand-still, as workers try to gain leverage for wage increases.
Vísir reports that the stoppages are to begin on February 24, and will continue indefinitely. The workers involved all belong to the trade union Hlíf, who oversee the export division of Rio Tinto Alcan in Iceland.
With the start of these stoppages, no aluminium produced at the smelter will be offloaded, distributed, or shipped out to other countries, effectively rendering any aluminium production superfluous.
As reported, workers at the smelter have been in negotiations with management since at least 2014, where they have been fighting for wage increases. 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 at the time. “We’ve been waiting to hear what the parent company intends to do in Iceland. So we’re at a stand-still.”
With upper management unwilling to introduce wage increases, and workers unwilling to continue employment under their current salaries, how the conflict will be resolved still remains to be seen.