From Iceland — Unions Investigating Stay Apartments

Unions Investigating Stay Apartments

Published June 7, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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The labour union Efling is now investigating a tourist apartment company which fired eight cleaning workers for wanting their own bathroom and break room.

Tryggvi Marteinsson of Efling told Vísir that the former employees of Stay Apartments have brought their case to the union. The union, in turn, has sent a letter to the Administration of Occupational Safety and Health in Iceland (AOSH).

Ragnhildur Jóhannsdóttir, a former employee at Stay Apartments, told reporters that owner Halldór Gerhard Meyer presented all eight cleaning employees with a resignation letter, dated a day before the start of the month, and had everyone sign it. However, Halldór then kept the letter for himself, and has not given copies to the fired workers. Ragnhildur did, however, manage to take a photo of it, which she presented to Efling.

Tryggvi was not able to say definitively if the group firing was illegal or not. More documentation and testimony still needs to be taken.

As reported, the employees in question had one request: staff facilities. As it is, those who clean the rooms and apartments for Stay Apartments have no break room, nor even their own bathroom. Instead, they use the toilets in the apartments they clean to relieve themselves.

“We said we wanted to get in touch with the Administration of Occupational Safety and Health in Iceland (AOSH), and get them on board to work out a solution,” Ragnhildur told reporters. Shortly thereafter, all eight employees were fired.

Halldór told reporters that he is aware that the arrangement he had made with the former employees violates work regulations, which requires that all employers provide their employees with bathroom facilities, so long as those facilities are not directly connected to the work area.

Furthermore, Halldór admitted to having fired all eight workers without notice, opting instead to sign a contract with the cleaning company Sólarþrif. He said as well that he had looked at a nearby apartment for a possible staff area, but was concerned that it would lead to “nothing changing and everything happening all over again”.

“Whether it’s wrong, I don’t know, but [their complaints] pushed me to complete the contract [with Sólarþrif],” Halldór told reporters. “It could very well be that I violated their rights on this occasion and didn’t listen to them well enough.”

AOSH are reportedly examining the case more closely, now in conjunction with a relevant labour union.

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