From Iceland — Labour Rental Company Officially Bankrupt After Abuse Cases Brought To Light

Labour Rental Company Officially Bankrupt After Abuse Cases Brought To Light

Published September 25, 2019

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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In the midst of attempting a lawsuit against two labour officials for statements they made about the labour rental company, Menn Í Vinnu has officially gone bankrupt, RÚV reports. Those who feel as though the company owes them money—for back wages, for example—have two months to file a claim.

As reported, Icelandic public broadcasting’s news investigative show Kveikur drew public attention to the matter of Romanian workers employed by Menn í vinnu. In this instance, up to ten workers at a time share a single room, with each one of them paying 50,000 ISK per month for this rudimentary shelter. Furthermore, they typically work 220 hours per month, six days a week, for salaries that are far below the minimum wage. One of the workers interviewed said that after rental deductions and other charges he was paid a paltry 38,000 ISK for two weeks of work.

Since the airing of this story, numerous officials have come forward to condemn the exploitation to the media, amongst them María Lóa Friðjónsdóttir, specialist in workplace supervision at the Icelandic Confederation of Labour Unions (ASÍ), and Unnur Sverrisdóttir, director of the Directorate of Labour.

In the wake of this, Jóhannes S. Ólafsson, lawyer for Menn Í Vinnu, told reporters that he was planning to sue these two individuals for their remarks.

Worker exploitation, especially exploitation of foreign workers, is an endemic problem in Iceland. As Grapevine has reported repeatedly, foreign workers in Iceland are far more likely to be exploited than locals, and the problem has become especially pronounced in the tourism industry.

Some of the examples of exploitation that have been uncovered include underpaying workers; not giving them such basic rights as overtime and breaks; housing workers in conditions unfit for human living and physical abuse.

There are some 37,000 foreign workers in Iceland, comprising 20% of the workforce while comprising only 13% of the total population—these workers, most of them working in trades within or related to the tourism industry, are arguably the driving force behind the “boom time” economy Iceland currently enjoys.

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