No Agreement Between SA and Efling After Minute-Long Meeting

Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise

In a final push to avert a strike, the state mediator called a meeting between representatives from the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) and the Efling Union; the meeting, which is reportedly the shortest ever to be held at the state mediator’s facilities, was unsuccessful, RÚV reports.

Chair of SA critical of Sólveig’s “intransigence”

As Efling members began to vote on strike action, the state mediator invited Efling’s negotiating committee back to the negotiating table alongside the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) today. The meeting did not go well, lasting “all of about a minute,” according to RÚV.

In an interview following the meeting, Halldór Benjamín Þorbergsson, Chair of SA, told RÚV that Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, Chair of the Efling Union, was preventing agreements from being reached, and by calling a strike – forfeiting the possibility of retroactive wage agreements.

The Deep North Podcast: Wage Negotiations

“With the intransigence that she displayed today, Sólveig Anna is preventing union members from contractual wage improvements,” Halldór remarked.

“Disgusting and unacceptable”

Sólveig Anna responded bluntly to SA’s criticism. “Do people really think it’s normal, acceptable, that while you can criticise the dress code and behaviour of Efling members, you can’t pay those same people, who produce the profits, which find their way into other people’s pockets, decent wages?”

Sólveig Anna iterated her conviction that Efling members were prepared to go on strike in order to push for decent wages.

“It is a characteristic of civilised societies that people can provide for themselves with the work they do. In the case of many Efling members, this is simply not the case. I find it disgusting. Unacceptable. And we are fighting for this to be changed,” Sólveig Anna told RÚV.

Government Signs Agreement to Bolster Elite Sports in Iceland

Elite sports agreement

This weekend, the government signed an agreement with the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland (ÍSÍ) on the formulation of policy concerning elite sports. Former Olympian and coach Vésteinn Hafsteinsson has been hired to oversee the project.

Towards an improved environment for elite athletes

During a press conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, last Saturday, January 21, the Ministry of Education and Children’s Affairs and the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland signed an agreement on the formulation of policy concerning elite sports in Iceland. As part of the agreement, Vésteinn Hafsteinsson – former Olympic athlete and coach – will relocate to Iceland to collaborate with the government to formulate measures on how best to improve the status and rights of elite athletes in Iceland.

Minister Ásmundur Einar Daðason has also appointed a special working group comprised of interested parties to collaborate on the project, which Vésteinn Hafsteinsson will lead. The aim is to create “the best possible framework for elite sports in Iceland” and to put “high-performance athletes on equal footing with their competitors on an international level.”

Highly experienced athlete and coach

The government’s press release notes that Vésteinn, as a coach and former top-ranked discus thrower, is “familiar with the conditions required to shape and sustain elite athletic performance.” Last year, Vésteinn was chosen Coach of the Year in Sweden, having helped Swedish discus throwers Daniel Stahl and Simon Pettersson secure gold and silver medals respectively at the Tokyo Olympics. Vésteinn has been involved in a wide variety of sports over the years, both in Iceland and abroad, and “knows the environment and the athletes well.”

Vésteinn has been hired for the next five years to formulate policy changes with the government and, in the future, follow up on the implementation of this policy in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Children’s Affairs and ÍSÍ. Vésteinn will also assume the role of ÍSÍ’s Performance Manager where he will, among other things, supervise ÍSÍ’s Achievement Strategy (Afreksstefnu) and aid Icelandic competitors in preparation for the Olympics.

“It is very pleasing to cooperate with Vésteinn on this important project,” Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Minister of Education and Children’s Affairs, stated at the press conference. “Elite athletes are role models. They inspire and motivate us. They prove that we can achieve excellent results, despite our smallness. This initiative will serve to strengthen sports across the board, while at the same time stimulating recreation and solidarity. Our top athletes do not enjoy the same support as their foreign counterparts. Nor do they have access to the same facilities. They also do not enjoy the same civil liberties as the rest of us. This needs to be fixed. With a new national stadium, we improve our facilities. And now begins a review of our entire framework for elite sports in Iceland as stipulated in the government agreement.”

As noted on the government’s website, the aim of the work, going forward, is to review and propose changes to the framework, legislation, and other aspects deemed necessary to provide support for elite athletes in Iceland. The working group is tasked with examining, in particular, the cost of participation in national-team activities for competitors and their families, as well as examining the civil liberties of accomplished athletes within the state’s different social support systems.

Sólveig Anna Confident That Strikes Will Be Approved

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir Efling

300 employees at Íslandshótel hotels are set to go on strike if action is approved by the Efling union. Efling’s Chairperson is confident that the strike will be approved. Tourism advocates are surprised that the strikes are being directed towards a single employer, RÚV reports.

Efling survey indicates willingness to strike

Efling union members will begin voting on strike action today. If the first wave of action is approved, three hundred employees of Íslandshótel hotels (i.e. custodial staff) will go on strike. Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, Chairperson of Efling, told RÚV yesterday that, based on conversations with hotel workers, she expected union members to approve strike action.

“A strike notice has been accepted, and voting will begin tomorrow at noon. The strike action applies to union members employed by Íslandshótel hotels. These are approximately three hundred people, custodial staff, who have the opportunity to vote on whether they are prepared to strike in order to push for better contracts: Efling contracts for Efling people.”

“And you expect union members to approve of the action?” a reporter with RÚV inquired.

“Yes, I expect that the action will be met with approval. The results of a very extensive wage survey conducted by Efling indicate that a very large group of Efling members are prepared to quit their jobs to fight for better conditions. Representatives from our negotiating committee have also been visiting these hotels to speak with union members. It’s gone very well, and we had a meeting here yesterday, which also went very well,” Sólveig Anna observed yesterday.

Tourism advocates surprised

Tourism advocates are surprised that the strike action is being directed at a single employer. Kristófer Oliversson, the Director of the Association of Companies in Hotel and Accommodation Services (FHG), told RÚV that it was “unbelievable” that these strikes were being directed against almost “a single ID number, a single hotel owner.”

“It’s been just over six months since we were properly up and running, and now another setback. And it’s always the same custodial staff that’s being asked to strike. This is about five per cent of Efling members here in Reykjavík who are being asked to take up the fight, again and again. I find it quite incredible,” Kristófer stated yesterday.

Sólveig Anna added that this was only the first step. “At the same time, we’ve been working on a bigger and more comprehensive plan, which will then go to a strike vote if no wage agreement is negotiated in the near future,” Sólveig Anna observed.

Kristófer told RÚV yesterday that the tourism industry was in “a tight spot” after a difficult time during the pandemic.” There are good months ahead; February has now become a good time to visit Iceland.

When the views of tourism advocates were put to Sólveig Anna, the Efling Chair stated that she did buy the argument. “I find it incredible that people who are willing to keep these companies going, to profit from the work of others, lack the decency to pay those same people a living wage.”

When asked if she expected that further action by Efling would be directed against the tourism industry, Sólveig refused to answer. “I’m not going to answer that at this time. Ultimately, this is for the negotiating committee to decide. We make all our decisions during meetings with the committee, and I discuss them when they’ve been made,” Sólveig Anna remarked.

When asked if any specific groups within the union had refused to strike, Sólveig responded thusly: “No, no groups have refused to go on strike, not at all.”

Body Discovered in Grafarvogur, Reykjavík Yesterday

The Capital Area Police was notified yesterday after a body was discovered in the Grafarvogur neighbourhood of Reykjavík. A detective with the Capital Area Police told DV.is that it was too early to say whether something criminal had occurred.

Too early to comment

Yesterday, DV.is reported that a body had been discovered at Gufunesvegur in the Grafarvogur neighbourhood of Reykjavík. DV spoke with Grímur Grímsson, Chief Superintendent of the Investigative Department of the Capital Area Police, who confirmed the discovery.

The body was found in an area near public housing – five small cottages – intended for individuals struggling with addiction. Grímur stated that he was unable to comment further on the discovery; the matter was under investigation, and it was too early to say whether anything criminal had taken place.

Considerable activity at the scene

According to a tip received from a DV reader, there was considerable police activity at the scene, and the news agency estimated that fifteen police officers, including the forensics department, were at work there yesterday.

Fréttablaðið quotes residents of the cottages as saying that the police did not intervene further after the body was found. The body was discovered on the street in front of the cottages.

“There were ten, fifteen cops here, but I slept through it,” Máni Jökull Karlsson, a resident of one of the cottages on Gufunesvegur, told Fréttablaðið yesterday. “What is one supposed to think? There are only five cottages here. The police didn’t blame me – which is what they usually do. When Friðfinnur disappeared, they made a special trip to the cottages. I missed the scene this morning, but I was told that it was quite the operation.”