From Iceland — Labour Dispute At Rio Tinto Alcan At Standstill

Labour Dispute At Rio Tinto Alcan At Standstill

Published March 15, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Haukur Herbertsson/Creative Commons

A union official described management’s offer at yesterday’s negotiations to be “many steps backwards”, and other options for action may have to be considered.

Yesterday, representatives of workers and management at Rio Tinto Alcan met for negotiations, which were arbitrated by a representative of the state. Those negotiations unfortunately have come to naught, and worker representative Gylfi Ingvarsson told Grapevine that management’s offer was akin to “many steps backwards”.

Gylfi pointed out that informal talks have been ongoing regarding possible solutions, but management’s offer “was not even in harmony with what Business Iceland was suggesting”, which Gylfi says shows management has not been following the discussions or are not taking them seriously.

Part of the dispute does centre around wage increases. While workers would like to see pay rises span from May 2015 to 2018, Rio Tinto Alcan management has reportedly offered that these rises not begin until May 2017. Furthermore, management also put forward that contractors hired to work at the smelter be denied the right to strike.

“We simply told them that this group is very vaguely defined, and we were not about to take rights away from a group of vaguely defined workers,” Gylfi told us.

As it stands now, the state arbitrator will call for another round of negotiations within the next 14 days, unless a solution comes up sooner. Looking forward, Gylfi said that it may be necessary to “consider other actions” that workers can take to move the process along.

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