From Iceland — Foreign Workers More Likely To Be Exploited Than Locals

Foreign Workers More Likely To Be Exploited Than Locals

Published February 17, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Slandsvi/Wikimedia Commons

A union official has confirmed that foreign workers fall victim to worker exploitation to a proportionately greater degree than their Icelandic co-workers.

RÚV reports that over the past two years, the labour union Efling has dealt with some 400 cases of workers being underpaid or otherwise not treated in accordance with the standing collective bargaining agreement. Even though foreign workers comprise 35% of Efling’s members, 45% of Efling’s casework involving worker exploitation has concerned foreign workers.

At the same time, while only 25% of Efling’s members work in restaurants or the tourism industry, about half of their registered grievances come from within these industries.

Harpa Ólafsdóttir, the Department Director of the Collective Bargaining Department for Efling, told reporters that there are a number of reasons for this distinction.

“It is often the case that the average worker realises that something isn’t right, in which case they go directly to their employer to resolve the issue,” she said. “But [foreign workers] might not know their rights, on top of naturally being not as secure in their language comprehension. They simply do not dare discuss their situation with their employer, and they go to their unions instead.”

If you work in Iceland and believe you might not know your working rights, the Icelandic Confederation of Labour Unions (ASÍ) has compiled an English summary of your labour rights in Iceland. This information is also available in Polish, as Poles comprise the largest foreign demographic in Iceland.

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