Efling Strike: Classrooms Close Due to Unsanitary Conditions

Borgarfjörður eystri

Around 1,850 City of Reykjavík employees who are members of the Efling Union began an indefinite strike on Monday, January 17. The strike has already had a considerable impact on several Reykjavík schools, Vísir reports.

Efling expects an extended strike

A strike among Reykjavík City employees who are members of the Efling Union began last Monday. Union chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir expects the strike to be a long one. The strike will affect preschools, elementary schools, welfare services, and waste management services in the city.

Efling turned down a proposal from the City of Reykjavík last Tuesday, February 19, saying that, “once again, the City of Reykjavík had struck the conciliatory hand of low-wage workers.”

Unsanitary conditions

The strike has begun impacting Reykjavík schools. A group of students in Grandaskóli stayed home today as a section of the school had been closed due to unsanitary conditions. Réttarholtsskóli was also closed yesterday, as the school’s janitorial staff is currently on strike. Conditions were especially dire in the school’s bathrooms.

17 Classrooms Closed

Conditions are comparable in other schools, with many schools being unable to receive all students, as school administrators are planning to close parts of their buildings. Grandaskóli is one of those schools: roughly 140 students, of 365, were able to attend school today.

“It’s the cleaning that’s having the biggest impact,” Örn Halldórsson, principal of Grandaskóli stated. “We needed to close that part of the school that hasn’t been cleaned. It puts the worst strain on the halls and the desks where the kids eat their packed meals in the morning. The state of the desks is unacceptable.”

Grandaskóli has closed 17 classrooms while continuing to teach in seven. Örn hopes for a speedy resolution to the wage negotiations, as strikes have a negative impact on the education and wellbeing of children. “It’s absurd. Children need their routine. Uncertainty of this kind affects them negatively, just like us adults.”

It remains uncertain when the next wage negotiations will occur as the State Mediator has yet to call a new meeting.

Life-Threatening Conditions in Eldvörp Caves, Warning Issued

Grindavík - Þorbjörn

Following gas measurements conducted yesterday, the Icelandic Met Office has issued a warning for caves near the Eldvörp crater row in the Reykjanes peninsula (west of the Blue Lagoon). The Met Office conducts such analyses every week after a series of earthquakes, which resulted in considerable land uplift near Mt. Þorbjörn by Grindavík, occurred in late January.

A warning issued by a natural hazard expert with the Met Office states that changes in gas concentration have been measured, and in light of this the Met Office warns against exploring caves in the area. Measurements within one cave, in particular, indicated a life-threatening concentration of carbon dioxide along with a lack of oxygen.

“There are many caves in the area, but the cave in question is near a parking lot popular among travellers seeking to visit the Eldvörp crater row,” the statement reads. The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has been apprised of the situation.

In an interview with RÚV, Kristín Jónsdóttir, team leader with the natural disaster watch at the Met Office, stressed that the Met Office’s warning only applied to caves in the area: “Walking in the area should be safe. It’s a beautiful area and it’s fun to explore. But we’re warning travellers to refrain from exploring the caves.”

This article was updated at 2.33 pm.

Dangerous Conditions in Kópavogur Fire

Vesturvör

At 3.30 am tonight, the Capital District Fire and Rescue Service was notified of a fire in Vesturvör 36 in Kópavogur, RÚV reports. The building, which is roughly 3,000 m2, houses the Hamar machine shop, the Freyja chocolate factory, and boat manufacturer Rafnar, among others. All units were dispatched, among them off-duty firefighters.

In an interview with RÚV earlier this morning, Vernharð Guðnason, a divisional manager with the Fire and Rescue Service, stated that good progress had been made: “We’re still endeavouring to put out a few minor flames, but all of the major fires have been extinguished, and the firefighting, generally speaking, went exceptionally well.”

According to Vernharð, conditions were quite dangerous: “Yes, certainly. This is the kind of operation (Hamar machine shop) with a lot of gas tanks and welding equipment, along with a certain kind of fuel, and there is also a plastics factory in one section of the building. So, yes, the conditions were quite dangerous initially.”

Vernharð added that a large part of the building was unscathed. “It’s mainly one company that suffered the most damages, and they are significant,” Vernharð stated, referring to the Hamar machine shop.

In an interview with Vísir, Kári Pálsson, owner of Hamar, said that watching the company burn was a great shock. “The heart of the company is gone,” Kári said, adding that this morning he had begun looking for another building in the area from which to conduct the company’s operations. Other companies offered to help.

Hamar, which has been in operations since 1998, operates a total of five sites in Hafnarfjörður, Grundartangi, Akureyri, Eskifirði, and in Kópavogur, the latter of which being the biggest. Approximately 60 people work in Hamar’s shop in Kópavogur. Kári stated that the company was insured and that it was a great relief that no one was injured.