From Iceland — Union Head Criticises Top Union Official: "Cannot Call Himself A Labour Leader"

Union Head Criticises Top Union Official: “Cannot Call Himself A Labour Leader”

Published November 24, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Vilhjálmur Birgisson, director of the labour union Verkalýðsfélags Akraness, harshly criticised the top union official in the country for downplaying the demands of Iceland’s primary school teachers.

Iceland’s primary school teachers, who are municipal employees, have been working without a valid collective bargaining agreement since last spring, and both their low salaries and high workloads are pushing them closer towards striking.

Gylfi Arnbjörnsson, the president of the Confederation of Icelandic Labour Unions (ASÍ), recently appeared on Hringbraut to discuss the matter, only instead of defending the teachers, he said that “they’ve gotten theirs” already, arguing that their current salaries are high enough.

It bears mentioning, for context, that Gylfi earns about 1.2 million ISK per month, or just under four times the starting monthly salary of a primary school teacher.

Vilhjálmur Birgisson, the director of the labour union Verkalýðsfélags Akraness, was having none of Gylfi’s analysis.

“A man who talks like this can never call himself a labour leader,” Vilhjálmur posted on Facebook. “Think about the arrogance of ‘the teachers have gotten theirs’, is that him to decide or what? It is tragic that workers cannot find peace in their collective bargaining struggle due to the involvement of the ASÍ president!”

Numerous grade school teachers have already walked off the job. Their grievances have been ongoing for months now, and collective bargaining is likely to be a hot issue in the coming year. Unions are already increasing their strike funds in preparation.

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