Unions Warn Against "Volunteer Jobs" - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Unions Warn Against “Volunteer Jobs”

Published February 18, 2016

Photos by
Art Bicnick

Some employers are advertising to foreigners for volunteers to do work people are supposed to be paid for. A union official says they regularly monitor such postings, which are violations of Icelandic labour law.

The website workaway.info offers volunteer jobs around the world, and there are postings made for locations in Iceland, too. However, some of these volunteer postings are for jobs that one is required, by Icelandic law, to be paid for.

“This is one of the most serious examples of underbidding on the labour market,” Drífa Snædal, the managing director of the labour union SGS, told Vísir. “There is a big difference between doing volunteer work for a charity or social group, and volunteering at a for-profit company. There is a white area, a gray area and a black area. In the black area are hotels and guesthouses asking for volunteers.”

Iceland has very clear labour laws where volunteer work is concerned. Unpaid work at a company that sells things – whether guest accommodation or farm products – is a violation of Icelandic labour law and standing collective bargaining agreements. Under no circumstances should anyone work without pay for a company that sells products or services.

As reported, foreign workers are much more likely to be victims of worker exploitation than their Icelandic counterparts. 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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