Two-Day Workers’ Strike Has Begun

Hallgrímskirkja - Skólavörðuholt -Miðborgin - Reykjavík

Around 1,850 Efling Union members employed by the City of Reykjavík went on strike at 12.30pm today, RÚV reports. It is their third strike action since last week, and the longest yet, set to stand until midnight on Thursday. A contract negotiation meeting between city and union representatives scheduled for yesterday was postponed and is yet to be rescheduled.

The strike actions affect around half of the city’s preschool-attending children, or 3,500, as well as 1,650 individuals who use the Reykjavík’s welfare services. The City’s welfare department received an exception from the strike for the Efling members who perform key services for disabled people and children, as well as services for the elderly both at home and at nursing homes, and emergency services at homeless shelters.

Hjalti J. Guðmundsson, who oversees management and care of city property, says the strike will not affect snow clearing on roads, as that is done by contract workers. It will, on the other hand, affect snow clearing on walking paths and bike lanes. “On bike lanes for example there will be no winter service and on walking paths there will be some reduction. There will also be a reduction [of snow clearing] on lots and that aren’t cleared by contractors, parking lots in front of preschools and primary schools and the like.”

Municipal garbage cans will not be emptied during the strike, nor will garbage be collected from private residences.

Efling workers working for the City of Reykjavík are set to go on strike indefinitely from February 17 if an agreement is not reached.

Safety First

Iceland Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre

Hilmar Snorrason doesn’t care what you think.

Last December, he attended a Christmas buffet with his family, and as the dinner was set relatively close to home, he suggested they walk. Adorning himself in his most elegant suit, thrusting his toes into his polished dress shoes, Hilmar stepped into the foyer, where, in the eyes of his family, he proceeded to ruin an otherwise fashionable ensemble – with the addition of a bright-yellow safety vest.

“Fashion, to us Icelanders,” Hilmar muses, from inside his office on the ship Sæbjörg on the Reykjavík harbour, “is often synonymous with the colour black, but I’m not going to walk in the dark wearing dark clothes.”

It’s not an unreasonable statement to make – in a country where December affords four hours of daylight – especially not if one is the headmaster of the Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre.

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Review Legislation on Sexual Privacy

Judge's gavel

A new report is critical of the Icelandic justice system’s treatment of survivors of digital sexual violence, Fréttablaðið reports. The report states that survivors do not receive enough support and even experience victim-shaming from police representatives. Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir will begin a review of legislation and law enforcement in connection with the protection of individuals’ sexual privacy.

Legislation needs updating

“In light of societal and technological changes, the Icelandic General Penal Code is not fit for purpose to ensure efficient protection of sexual privacy,” states the report’s summary. It was commissioned by the government and written by lawyer María Rún Bjarnadóttir. The author chose to use the term sexual privacy (kynferðisleg friðhelgi), rather than “digital sexual violence,” as it is a broader term, and thus extends to more kinds of behaviour, in addition to framing technology in a neutral way.

The document points out that “although reports of violations have increased year to year since the 2015 legislation, the number of cases that have advanced through the justice system have decreased.” The report calls for harsher sentencing of digital sexual violence, training for representatives within the justice system, and more protection of survivors and their sexual privacy.

No anonymity for survivors

Unlike other forms of sexual violence, digital sexual violence is not defined as a sexual offence within the Icelandic justice system. This leads to significant differences in how such cases are handled. For one, while sexual offenders are automatically charged, reporting digital sexual violence to police does not lead to charges unless the survivor consents. Furthermore, survivors of digital sexual offences do not have the right to remain anonymous either in the handling of such cases nor in court rulings, as do survivors of violations that are defined as sexual offences. Survivors therefore fear that pressing charges or going to court will lead to further distribution of pictures or videos – or unwanted attention.

The Icelandic government discussed the report at a meeting last Friday. A notice from the government states that the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Social Affairs will consider the report’s proposed changes and review the relevant legislation.

Road Reopens Following Three Avalanches

Avalanche in Iceland February 2014.

Three avalanches fell on the road between Ísafjörður and Súðavík in the Westfjords yesterday. The avalanches occurred after the road had been closed by police and the Road Administration in consultation with the Icelandic Met Office. The road was reopened this morning, though snow clearing continues.

The road, known as Súðavíkurhlíð, was closed yesterday morning at 8.00am by authorities after considerable snowfall in the area and poor visibility. Though it has been reopened, one section of the road is only a single lane wide. Travellers in the area are asked to be aware and show workers consideration as they continue to clear snow to widen the road.

The avalanche risk level for the area is expected to remain at “considerable danger” for the next several days. Those planning on travelling in the area are asked to stay updated on weather conditions on the Road and Coastal Administration’s website or by calling the information line 1777.