From Iceland — Harpa Director Asks For Pay Cut, But Damage May Have Already Been Done

Harpa Director Asks For Pay Cut, But Damage May Have Already Been Done

Published May 9, 2018

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

The director of Harpa is now asking for her pay rise to be rescinded, but the damage may have already been done as service workers are still contending with a pay cut.

Svanhildur Konráðsdóttir was last year awarded a 20% pay rise last year, taking her monthly salary from 1.3 million ISK to 1.56 million ISK, while service employees were compelled to accept significant cuts to their pay. This sparked significant backlash in the general public, and prompted 17 Harpa employees to quit their jobs.

Initially, Svanhildur was fairly unrepentant, choosing to not comment on the matter, even as people such as singer Ellen Kristjánsdóttir and the labour union VR vowed to boycott the concert hall. Further, Left-Green citycouncilperson Líf Magneudóttir posted on Facebook on the matter, saying, “This is not how a company owned by the city should behave. We need to review city policy and the means at its disposal regarding the pay policies of a company the city owns.” The City of Reykjavík owns a 46% stake in Harpa; the national government owns the remaining 54%.

RÚV now reports Svanhildur has requested a 20% pay cut. However, there has been no announcement that Harpa service workers will receive a pay rise, and not everyone is impressed.

“I see no reason why we should continue any further business with Harpa,” VR director Ragnar Þór Ingólfsson told RÚV. “And I think it must be a very difficult case for the directorship of Harpa, especially with their arrogant response of just wishing good luck to the employees who quit.”

“We don’t feel like we’re included with other workers in the concert hall,” Harpa service employee Matthías Aron Ólafsson told Vísir. “You somehow feel a class division within the building.”

No further walk-outs have been reported at Harpa, but as the matter is now being discussed by members of Reykjavík City Hall, the question remains if Harpa’s service workers will be granted a pay increase, and whether there may be any shake-ups within the directorship of the concert hall itself.

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