A new proposal from The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland council seeks to do away with the common practice of priests charging a fee for common practices such as weddings, baptisms and funerals. However, the Association of Icelandic Priests (PÍ) objects strongly to this decision, and believe that it breaks the collective bargaining agreement that priests have with the state.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland is a semi-independent government organisation, and salaries are paid from government coffers. In 2017, the base salary for a priest was between 710,000 and 810,000 ISK, and a recent issue of the financial magazine Frjáls Verslun reported that there were ten priests in Iceland with salaries from just over 1.4 million ISK and 2.1 million ISK.
Services such as weddings, funerals, confirmations and baptisms are currently considered “extra work” for priests, and they can charge money for these services. The national church council proposes doing away with these fees altogether, arguing that the current salaries priests make should be enough, and that charging money for the services is both outdated and undermining.
“The performance of services for the church should always be based on Christian love and without obstacles for people,” the proposal reads in part. “It is outdated and alienating for the services of the church that priests, who are serving people in moments of joy and sorrow, later send these people a bill for the services. This greatly undermines the credibility of the services of the church.”
In a statement from PÍ, director Ninna Sif Svavarsdóttir takes great issue with this characterisation, saying in part, “It is highly distasteful and not decent for a church council to warn pastors about the lack of Christian love when they exercise their clear fundamental right to collect for extra work.” She further points out that this proposal was put forward just three months after the new collective bargaining agreement between PÍ and the state was signed.
“PÍ believes that if it comes to this, the collective bargaining agreement will be terminated,” the statement concludes.
A terminated collective bargaining agreement typically means having to negotiate a new one, and in the worst case, a strike. Whether things will come to that remains to be seen.
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