One Third of Parliamentarians Report Being Victims of Bullying

Over one third of MPs who responded to a recent survey said they had been subject to bullying during their time in parliament. The survey on bullying and sexual and gender-based harassment of MPs and parliamentary staff was conducted last January and February by the University of Iceland’s Social Science Research Institute. Speaker of Alþingi Steingrímur J. Sigfússon called the results of the survey “shocking” and stated they should be taken seriously.

Bullying in Parliament

When asked whether they had been bullied at some point during their time in parliament, 80% of respondents who answered the question stated they had not. Bullying was more common among MPs than parliamentary staff: 35.7% of MPs stated they had been bullied at work or in connection to their job. The proportion was 15% among parliamentary staff and 6.3% among party staff. There was no measurable difference in proportion between genders. More than one third of those who had been subject to bullying stated they had experienced it within in the past six months.

Most Sexual Harassment Goes Unreported

Around 16% of respondents stated they had experienced sexual harassment in connection with their job, 12.5% of those within the last six months. The vast majority (87.5%) said they had been harassed by a man while 12.5% of harassers were reported to be women. Only 12.5% of those who had been sexually harassed said they had reported the incident.

In total 18.4% of respondents stated they had experienced gender-based harassment at some point during their time at parliament. As with bullying, a larger proportion of MPs had experienced gender-based harassment (31.8%) than parliamentary or party staff. Women were more likely to have experienced gender-based harassment than men (25% to 10.4%) and 74% of perpetrators were reported to be men.

Alþingi’s Speakers’ Committee decided to form an Equality Committee last January that will now discuss how to follow up on the survey’s findings.

Iceland’s Central Bank Lowers Interest Rates to Record 1%

Central Bank Ásgeir Jónsson seðlabankastjóri

The Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Iceland has decided to lower the bank’s interest rates by 0.75%. The bank’s key interest rate will now be 1%, representing a historic low. The Central Bank’s new macroeconomic forecast projects an 8% contraction in GDP in 2020 followed by GDP growth of nearly 5% in 2021.

“The predominant factor underlying this forecast is a more than 80% decline in tourist visits to Iceland,” a press release from the bank states. “The outlook is for a steep rise in unemployment, which appears set to reach 12% in Q3 and measure just under 9% for the year as a whole.” The Bank expects economic activity to gradually normalise starting in the second half of this year, though it admits “uncertainty is unusually pronounced” and “economic developments will depend on the path the pandemic takes and the progress made in unwinding the associated public health measures.”

The Central Bank hopes that lower interest rates will contribute to a more rapid economic recovery than would otherwise occur.

Tensions Rise in Icelandair and Cabin Crew Negotiations

Icelandair cabin crew

As negotiations with the Icelandic Cabin Crew Association (FFÍ) drag on without resolution, Icelandair has considering hiring cabin crew from outside the union, according to Fréttablaðið’s sources. The airline is aiming to reduce its salary expenses by 20% before a shareholders’ meeting on Friday where parties will vote on an ISK 29 billion ($200 million/€1.82 million) public stock offering. The Icelandic Cabin Crew Association rejected a contract offer the airline put forth on May 10.

Hiring from outside the union “must be one of the options that Icelandair has to consider, as the airline’s situation is very difficult,” stated Jón Karl Ólafsson, chairman of the board of TravelCo Nordic and a former Icelandair Group director. Jón Karl says that in most of Icelandair’s contracts with its staff, there is a clause that states that members of the relevant union have precedence when the airline is hiring. “It is, however, unlikely that this precedence clause applies if an employee chooses, for some reason, to be outside of the union.”

Shareholders insist on long-term contracts

Icelandair will meet with shareholders this Friday, where it will present its plan to raise funds through an ISK 29 billion ($200 million/€1.82 million) public stock offering. Most of the airline’s largest shareholders have stated they will not support the move unless long-term contracts have been signed with all the airline’s employees.

Icelandair recently signed new contracts with its pilots’ and mechanics’ unions, but negotiations with the Icelandic Cabin Crew Association have yet to reach a conclusion. According to the group’s chairperson Guðlaug Líney Jóhannsdóttir, the contract rejected by the union earlier this month entailed a five-year salary freeze, increased workload, and less vacation time.

Icelandair CEO denies speculations

In a letter to FFÍ, Icelandair CEO Bogi Nils Bogason stated the airline was not in negotiations with other unions regarding cabin crew positions. Bogi admitted there was pressure to bring negotiations to a close, but insisted that the airline has approached negotiations with integrity and “proposed an offer that would ensure Icelandair’s future competitiveness.”