Strikes Outside of Reykjavík Anticipated for Monday

An indefinite strike of Efling members in municipalities outside of Reykjavík is set to start on Monday, March 9 at noon, “unless agreements have been signed before that time,” reads an announcement on the Efling website. According to Efling director Viðar Þorsteinsson, however, even though additional meetings between the union and local councils are scheduled for the weekend, there’s no indication that any agreement will be reached in time to prevent Efling members in Kópavogur, Seltjarnarnes, Mosfellsbær, Hveragerði, and Ölfus from joining the ongoing strike action currently underway in Reykjavík, Mbl.is reports.

A sympathy strike among workers in the Federation of Independent Schools in Iceland was also proposed for Monday, but Iceland’s Labour Court deemed the action illegal and Efling has stated that it “accepts the ruling and will not proceed with the strike.”

Just as the ongoing strike action has significantly impacted public services in Reykjavík, so will Monday’s strike significantly impact public services in the soon-to-strike municipalities. An announcement on the Kópavogur website said that the impact of the strike would be particularly felt in elementary schools, where cleaning services, after-school programming, and support for children with special needs will be significantly curtailed.

The Directorate of Immigration (ÚTL), which is also located in Kópavogur, also posted an announcement on its website, saying that services will be reduced and application processing will slow during the strike. The ÚTL office will be closed on March 9 and 10, “as well as other days during which the strike is in progress.” Telephone services will only be available between 9 and 12 with minimum staffing during the strike. ÚTL recommends that those who need to be in touch with their office do so via email, but should also expect slower replies.

Efling met again with City representatives on Friday afternoon, but no agreements were struck and no new meeting has been scheduled. “The ball’s in the City’s court now,” said Viðar.

Update March 9, 2020: BSRB members’ strike actions were called off after agreements were reached last night and this morning. Efling Union members in five municipalities outside Reykjavík began their strike at noon today.

New Restrictions on Fireworks Proposed

A ministerial committee appointed to review the negative impacts of pollution from fireworks has issued recommendations which would significantly curtail fireworks usage, RÚV reports. A joint statement issued by the committee emphasised the importance of taking practical measures to improve public health while also ensuring that Iceland’s Search and Rescue organisations remain well-funded (ICE-SAR currently earns half its annual revenue from the sale of fireworks).

Per the proposed regulations, it would only be permissible to set off fireworks in Iceland during the following windows: 4.00pm on New Year’s Eve to 2.00am on New Year’s Day; 4.00pm to 10.00pm on New Year’s Day; 4.00pm to 10.00pm on January 6th (Þrettándinn, otherwise known as Epiphany, or the last day of Christmas). Current law allows for the sale and use of fireworks from December 28 until January 6, during which time they are not permitted to be set off between midnight and 9.00am, except on New Year’s Eve.

The new recommendations would also allow for Þrettándinn celebrations to be postponed in the event of windy weather or heavy frost, although postponements beyond the following Sunday would not be allowed. Municipalities could also elect to hold Þrettándinn celebrations on Saturday or Sunday during the first week of January.

In total, the committee made seven recommendations on curtailing the use of fireworks:

  • Short-term measures put in place by local health committees related to fireworks pollution
  • Licences and supervision for fireworks displays
  • A more restrictive timeframe during which the use of fireworks is permitted
  • Fewer days on which fireworks are sold
  • Increased supervision and oversight on fireworks use
  • Penalties and fines related to misuse of fireworks
  • The appointment of a working group to discuss a new financing model for ICE-SAR rescue teams

Representatives of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources on the committee additionally proposed that public use of larger fireworks and firework “cakes” should be discontinued by 2030. They also proposed that people should only be allowed to set off fireworks in designated areas. The representative from the Ministry of Justice proposed more detailed measurements be taken on fireworks-generated pollution, via an increase in the number of pollution-measuring stations, an analysis of where pollution originates, and a ban imposed on the importation of bottle rockets.

Journalism Award Given for Reportage on Samherji Scandal

Four journalists have been awarded the Union of Icelandic Journalists’ 2019 Bladamannaverðlaun for Best Investigative Reporting for their coverage of the Samherji Scandal, Kjarninn reports. One of last year’s biggest news stories in Iceland, the scandal ignited investigations both domestically and abroad when allegations were made that one of the country’s largest seafood companies, Samherji, had bribed government officials in Namibia in order to gain lucrative fishing rights and avoid taxation.

In Focus: Samherji Scandal

Aðal­­­steinn Kjart­ans­­son, Helgi Selj­an, and Stefán Drengs­­son, reporters for RÚV’s investigative news program Kveikur, and Ingi Freyr Vil­hjálms­­son, a journalist for Stundin, all received the award for their collaborative coverage of the scandal with Al Jazeera and Wikileaks. “Few stories generated more interest in the Icelandic media…” read the jury’s justification for the award. “The coverage has had a significant impact, both here in Iceland and abroad.”

See Also: Broken News

Arnar Páll Hauksson, a reporter for RÚV’s radio program Spegillinn, received the Journalist of the Year award for his coverage of wage issues. “With his deep knowledge and expertise built on years of experience, Arnar Páll has delivered high-quality coverage on wage issues in countless articles and in-depth reports at a time of great upheaval on the labour market. He has covered ideas and suggestions that have been made in wage negotiations in great detail and was frequently the first to report new developments.”

The award for Best Coverage of the Year went to Stundinn’s Alma Mjöll Ólafs­dótt­ir, Jóhann Páll Jóhanns­­son, Mar­grét Mart­eins­dótt­ir, and Stein­­dór Grétar Jóns­­son for their reporting on climate change issues, which was commended by the jury for providing comprehensive reportage on the foreseeable consequences of man-made global warming, its manifestations both in Iceland and abroad, and efforts made by both the government and individuals to counteract damage already done to the environment.

Interview of the Year was given to Erla Björg Gunn­­ar­s­dótt­ir, Nadine Guð­rún Yag­hi, and Jóhann K. Jóhanns­­son for an interview with a young woman who grew up in Seltjarnarnes with a mentally ill mother who struggled with drug addiction. As a child, the interviewee endured neglect and abuse at the hands of her mother, but Child Protection Services in her town neglected to intervene. “The interview received well-deserved attention and was followed by numerous reports on the status of vulnerable children, the operations of child welfare committees, and other related issues,” read the jury’s award justification.

New Regulations on Rx Pick-Up Take Effect

New regulations governing the pick-up of prescription medication will go into effect next week. Per a statement on the on Government of Iceland website, starting on Tuesday, March 10, medication will only be given over to the person to whom the prescription was written, or to someone who has that person’s express written authorisation. Anyone who is picking up a prescription will be required to show valid identification.

These changes are going into effect on the basis of incidents where medication has been given over to someone other than the prescription holder without their authorisation and thus represents a violation of privacy.

Authorisation for a proxy to pick up medication must be in writing and must also bear the signatures of two witnesses, along with their full names and kennitala (Iceland’s national ID number). The original authorisation or a copy of it will then be kept at the pharmacy. This authorisation can specify if the proxy is empowered to pick up any medication on behalf of the prescription holder for an indefinite period of time or just a single medication for a limited amount of time. Parents are permitted to pick up medication for children 16 years and younger without written authorisation.