From Iceland — Icelandair Considers The Possibility Of Negotiating A New Trade Union For Flight Attendants

Icelandair Considers The Possibility Of Negotiating A New Trade Union For Flight Attendants

Published May 20, 2020

Nico Borbely
Photo by
Milad A380/Wikimedia Commons

Proposals have been made to set up a new trade union for flight attendants unsupportive of the Icelandic Flight Attendant Union (FFÍ) negotiation committee’s policies, Vísir reports, citing news reported by Morgunblaðið’s “reliable sources” from their economics section earlier today. Icelandair is now considering trying a collective bargaining agreement before the labor court, so that flight attendants can be hired by the company outside of FFÍ. The Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASÍ) has characterised the idea of Icelandair creating a new union as “union busting”. Icelandair’s flight attendants have reported rejected management’s “final offer”, RÚV reports.

The discussions in the wage dispute between between Icelandair and FFÍ are now reported to be in a very delicate position. Icelandair’s negotiation committee has requested an increased work contribution for an unchanged salary, which FFÍ regards as a considerable wage reduction. As reported, the airline’s previous proposal was to increase flight attendants’ hours, but keep their pay the same, which has been denounced as a 40% pay cut, leading flight attendants to reject the plan. The airline is currently under pressure to reach a long-term wage agreement before a meeting with shareholders scheduled for May 22nd, who hope to raise 29 billion ISK through public stock offering in June. The flight attendants find themselves at an advantage in bargaining as their contribution to the reopening of Iceland’s national borders, scheduled for June 15th, will be invaluable.

Morgunblaðið’s sources predict that Icelandair will be able to negotiate with a new trade union for flight attendants if agreements with FFÍ cannot be reached, an option which the airline would prefer to involving an independent contractor. Now that FFÍ has rejected Icelandair’s final offer, what happens next could entail a vote on a strike.

Icelandair is currently fighting for survival due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought the overwhelming majority of the company’s operations to a standstill. CEO Bogi Nils Bogason has stated that it is necessary for the company to negotiate with its staff in order to avoid bankruptcy. Negotiations have already been reached with aircraft operators and pilots, but not flight attendants.

The Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASÍ) has released an official statement strongly criticizing the airline’s intent to create an independent trade union. It emphasizes that “trade unions are worker’s organizations protected by the constitution,” and that Icelandair cannot legally establish a trade union on its own. President of ASÍ Drífa Snædal declares, “Icelandair’s progress in negotiations with flight attendants has been unbelievable and is likely to diminish general confidence in the face of this established airline. This is not our only airline that welcomes us home. We will not accept union busting, which will undermine the unity of workers and destroy unions.”

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