From Iceland — Union Criticises Law On Air Traffic Controllers

Union Criticises Law On Air Traffic Controllers

Published June 14, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
OhanaUnited/Wikimedia Commons

The Director of the Federation of State and Municipal Employees (BSRB) has spoken up against a recent parliamentary measure forcing air traffic controllers to work overtime.

In an article she wrote for Fréttablaðið, BSRB Director Elín Björg Jónsdóttir spoke up about a recent law from parliament that has forced air traffic controllers to work overtime, putting an end to the ban these workers had placed on working overtime in the midst of an ongoing collective bargaining dispute.

“One wonders if we’ve reached the point where these workers cannot provide their services without working overtime,” she writes in part. “If they don’t, then ‘public interests’ are declared in danger,” referring to the reason the Ministry of the Interior gave for forcing the controllers to work overtime.

“This is an extremely strange arrangement, as air traffic controllers are not obliged to work overtime,” she continues. “They completely fulfill their work hours requirements in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement, but when the only thing they decided to do was not take extra shifts, parliament decides that this is a public threat.”

As such, Elín Björg contends the onus is not on workers but on management to resolve matters, rather than force workers to take overtime hours, which in fact violates their contract.

As reported, parliament specifically cited the “harm” that could befall tourism if air traffic controllers stop working overtime. The air traffic controllers’ union points out that every fifth hour they work is in overtime, due to a severe shortage of workers. The union says they will operate within legal bounds, and that it is still up to the discretion of individual air traffic controllers whether they work overtime or not.

The government has given labour and management until June 24 to reach a new agreement. If no agreement is reached at that time, the government will appoint an arbitration committee to dictate the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement.

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