From Iceland — Seamen Strike Continues, New Minister Says Strikebreaking Law "Out Of The Question"

Seamen Strike Continues, New Minister Says Strikebreaking Law “Out Of The Question”

Published January 11, 2017

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

While one of the main organisers of a demonstration of seamen has vowed that they will remain on strike, even if parliament passes a law compelling them to go back to work, Iceland’s new Minister of Fisheries has said that such a piece of legislation is “out of the question”.

“If they pass a law on the strike, seamen will not return to their ships,” Þórólf­ur Júlí­an Dags­son told MBL. “We are putting it forward that if they put a law on us, we will not go back out to sea. It’s just really simple.”

As reported, the vast majority of unionised seamen voted in favour of going on strike last October. The length of the strike is indefinite, putting the onus on collective bargaining or state arbitration to resolve the matter.

However, a new government is now in place, and Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir told Vísir that introducing a law compelling the seamen to go back to work is not in the cards.

“It is, to my mind, out of the question,” she told reporters. “This is a matter between seamen and fishing companies, and it’s up to them to resolve this. … It’s up to the involved parties, first and foremost, and legislation should not get involved in labour disputes.”

One of the more contentious parts of the labour dispute is the fact that management of Iceland’s major fisheries intend to offset added government fees by taking the needed funds directly from catch values. This essentially moves money away from the seamen and into the hands of management, to help cover costs that they need to pay for.

Fishing accounts for about 8% of Iceland’s GDP, and is one of the pillars of the economy. As such, management only has about three weeks to offer seamen a satisfactory contract before the strike begins.

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