“An Invisible Group of Foreigners Who Clean Up After Us”

cleaning equipment

Cleaning staff in Iceland face too much strain and their working conditions are unacceptable, according to Director of the Federation of General and Special Workers in Iceland (Starfsgreinasamband, or SGS) Flosi Eiríksson. Cleaning is increasingly outsourced by businesses, which puts cleaning workers at risk of isolation, Flosi says. SGS is preparing for collective agreement negotiations later this year, and plans to emphasise improving working conditions for cleaners.

Flosi says that the last collective agreement included a review of the working speed and environment of cleaners, but that the review was never carried out. SGS contacted the Administration of Occupational Safety and Health (Vinnueftirlitið), who discovered that cleaners face excessive strain at work. “They were expected to work much too fast, that led to musculoskeletal problems, sick leave, and so on and so forth.”

While in the past, cleaners were employed by the businesses and institutions where they worked, now they tend to be employed by large cleaning companies that are hired by businesses. Before this shift occurred, many people worked part-time as cleaners, after work or school. Now many are working as cleaners full time. The Administration of Occupational Safety and Health confirmed that cleaners’ working conditions are equivalent to walking 10 kilometres per hour, each hour they work, which Flosi called “unacceptable.”

“Invisible group of foreigners”

With cleaning services increasingly outsourced, there is a greater risk that cleaners will be isolated at their workplace. “You are specially marked, you don’t have coffee with other employees, you probably don’t get the staff Christmas present, you don’t go to the staff party, and so on,” Flosi stated. “Sometimes we don’t see those people. Here in the capital area, they’re probably 80-90% people of foreign origin. Maybe we’re, in some sense, creating a tiny invisible group of foreigners who clean up after us.” Flosi also pointed out that by outsourcing cleaning services, government institutions are no longer taking part in collective agreement negotiations for cleaning employees.

Justice Minister Defends Withholding of Citizenship Applications

Dómsmálaráðherra Ríkisstjórn Alþingi Jón Gunarsson

Receiving Icelandic citizenship through an act of Parliament should be the exception, but it appears to be the rule, Justice Minister Jón Gunnarsson argued in committee today. MPs have criticised the Minister and the Directorate of Immigration for refusing to hand over applications for citizenship that Alþingi, Iceland’s Parliament, was scheduled to process last December. Jón stated that those who apply for citizenship via Alþingi should not get to “jump the line” ahead of others, RÚV reports.

Along with the standard process of applying for citizenship through the Directorate of Immigration, Icelandic law permits Alþingi to grant citizenship by decree, which it normally does twice a year. Unlike the standard process, the Alþingi route is open to applicants who do not meet the conditions for the granting of Icelandic citizenship. Applicants who take this route must submit detailed arguments as to why Alþingi should grant them an exemption from these requirements.

Read More: Citizenship Applications Withheld from Parliament

In an address before the Judicial Affairs and Education Committee this morning, the Minister of Justice stressed that citizenship applications should be treated equally regardless of how they are submitted. He criticised that applications submitted through Alþingi “jump the line” ahead of others, asserting that there is nothing in Icelandic law that requires those applications to be processed first.

Jón stated that the processing time for citizenship applications (submitted through the standard process) had been shortened from 18 months to six, and authorities would work to process dozens of applications in the coming days.

Opposition Abstains from Voting on “Míla Bill”

Iceland's Althing

Iceland’s Parliament passed the so-called “Mila bill” today with 33 votes in favour, RÚV reports. Fifteen MPs abstained from voting, all members of the opposition. The bill is intended to ensure national security in light of the sale of Iceland’s telecommunications company Míla to French fund management company Ardian.

Míla, which owns and operates nationwide telecommunications systems, was sold to Ardian last year. All of Iceland’s homes, businesses, and institutions are serviced by Míla’s systems, and many expressed concern that such important infrastructure was being sold to a foreign company. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has called telecommunications infrastructure “a key issue for public security in every society.”

Read More: Parliament Rushing to Ensure National Security

Ardian’s purchase of Míla was discussed in the National Security Council and new legislation was drafted, with the stated goal of strengthening and securing the legal basis for electronic communication with regard to national security. Helga Vala Helgadóttir, MP for the Social-Democratic Alliance, has argued that there were many red flags in the government’s handling of the case and that the legislation did not ensure consumer security.

The newly-passed bill, introduced last term by then-Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, amends the Electronic Communications Act, legislation governing the Electronic Communications Office of Iceland (ECOI), and legislation on foreign investment in business operations.

One in Custody Following Shooting in Reykjavík

police station Hlemmur

A man in his 20s is in custody following reports of a shooting in the Grafarholt neighbourhood of Reykjavík between 3:00 and 4:00 AM last night. A man and woman were both shot while standing outdoors in the neighbourhood, according to a police statement sent to media. Both were transported to the emergency ward, where their wounds were attended to. Neither is in critical condition.

The police mobilised their special forces unit in response to the shooting, making the arrest in central Reykjavík this morning. The investigation is in its early stages, but police believe that the general public is not in danger. No further information was provided about the case, but police stated a press released would be issued later today.