From Iceland — State Arbitrator To Meet With Labour And Management At Rio Tinto Alcan

State Arbitrator To Meet With Labour And Management At Rio Tinto Alcan

Published March 14, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
HRV Engineering

A negotiations meeting is to be held at 17:00 today in the hopes of finding a solution to the ongoing labour dispute.

Kolbeinn Gunnarsson, the director of the trade union Hlíf, told RÚV that while informal solutions have been discussed, they have been moving slowly. An exporting ship is due to arrive at Straumsvík tonight to pick up more aluminium, which is currently being offloaded by members of management.

While the County Seat granted 19 members of management permission to offload aluminium for two weeks, the decision has been harshly criticised by unions as akin to scabbing, which is illegal in Iceland.

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.


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