State Mediator Not Fearful of Losing Unions’ Trust

Aðalsteinn Leifsson

The state mediator does not fear that he has lost the trust of the unions, despite the reaction to his mediating proposal in the dispute between the Efling Union and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA), RÚV reports. The proposal was submitted as a result of unprecedentedly tough negotiations.

Efling refuses to submit electoral roll

State mediator Aðalsteinn Leifsson does not fear that his mediation proposal in the dispute between the Efling Union and SA may have permanently damaged the office’s relationship with the unions – despite the recent condemnations.

“I listen to the comments that are made about my work, but I reiterate my point that I submitted this proposal after careful consideration,” Aðalsteinn told RÚV today.

The proposal puts the same agreement that SA previously agreed upon by other unions to a vote among members of Efling. Efling’s Chair, Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, has repeatedly described it as bad for workers. In order for the state mediator to oversee the vote, he needs an electoral roll (a list of Efling members eligible to vote) – which Efling’s Chair does not intend to hand over.

“By refusing to hand over the electoral roll, Efling is standing in the way of members being able to vote on the proposal. If we do not receive the list, we must explore alternative options,” Aðalsteinn stated.

An “unprecedented” round of negotiations

When Aðalsteinn presented his proposal at a press conference yesterday, he stated that the reason for the proposal was the “unprecedented situation” that had arisen in the negotiations. As noted by RÚV, however, strikes have been employed throughout the years without any attempt to avert them with a mediating proposal.

According to Aðalsteinn, what makes the situation “unprecedented” is not the prospect of strikes, but because of the “unprecedented” nature of the negotiations.

“This dispute stands out in that it has been extremely difficult to get any kind of conversation about possible solutions going,” he concluded.

49,000 Icelanders (13.2% of the population) Currently Live Abroad

pedestrian street Laugavegur Reykjavík

According to new data from Registers Iceland, almost 49,000 Icelanders have a registered legal residence outside Iceland. Denmark, Sweden, and Norway remain the most popular destinations among Icelanders.

The Nordic countries remain the most popular

On Wednesday, January 25, Registers Iceland published data on the number of Icelandic citizens living abroad (as of December 1, 2022). According to the data, 48,951 Icelanders live outside the country, or 13.2% of the total population. This figure has increased by more than five thousand over the period of a single year, Registers Iceland notes.

The Nordic countries remain the most popular destination for Icelanders: 62.1% of Icelandic citizens who have a registered legal domicile abroad are registered in the Nordic countries. 11,590 Icelanders currently reside in Denmark (or over 3% of the population), 9,278 in Norway, and 8,933 in Sweden. Approximately 30,000 Icelanders live in these three countries.

6,492 Icelanders live in the United States (which is followed by Great Britain, Germany, and Canada).

Only one registered Icelandic citizen in 15 countries

As noted by Registers Iceland, as of December 1, 2022, Icelanders had a registered legal residence in a total of 100 countries out of the 193 member states of the United Nations. The article also contains the following, interesting tidbit:

“It is interesting to note that 15 countries had only a single Icelandic citizen with a registered legal domicile. These are the countries Albania, Angola, Belize, Ecuador, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iran, Kenya, Lebanon, Macedonia, Mauritius, Pakistan, Panama and Somalia.”

Police Association Welcomes Authority to Employ Stun Guns

Metropolitan Police

The Police Association of Iceland welcomes the Justice Minister’s decision to authorise the use of electroshock weapons. An article on Vísir this morning notes that there is no scientific consensus on the lethality of such weapons.

Helps to clarify the authority of the police

In an announcement on the Police Association of Iceland’s website yesterday, the association welcomed Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson’s decision to authorise the use of electroshock weapons. The association stated that it had, for years, emphasised the need to better ensure the safety of police officers. The decision was, therefore, a cause for celebration that the Minister had shown an understanding of the interests of police officers.

“Accidents at work occur most frequently within the police profession, and it is common for a police officer to be alone on the scene and have to deal with challenging and unforeseen situations where further assistance is not always at hand.”

The Minister’s decision helps to clarify the authority of the police, contributing to increased security for police officers and, at the same time, “increased security for ordinary citizens,” the announcement reads.

Difficult to pinpoint the precise cause of death

The minister’s decision to authorise the use of electroshock weapons has proven somewhat controversial, with PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir stating that she had wished that the new regulation had received a more thorough discussion within Parliament.

An article published on Vísir this morning notes that there is no consensus among experts on the lethality of these weapons. The reporter notes that the reason is twofold: first, scientific ethics make research impossible, and second, cause of death has proven difficult to disentangle following the employment of stun guns.

“According to an extensive report conducted by Reuters from 2017,” the article notes, “over a thousand people died as a result of the employment of stun guns in the United States over a period of approximately fifteen years. In nine out of ten cases, the person was unarmed.”

“Reuters reporters reviewed 712 autopsy reports in connection with their investigation. In 153 cases, forensic pathologists concluded that the shot from the stun gun had been the cause or one of the causes of the person’s death. When the stun gun was not considered a factor, the cause of death was usually attributed to heart disease or other illness, drug use, or an accident.”

The article also notes that independent studies have “shown that stun guns can be useful in reducing injuries to police and those on whom the guns are used.” These weapons should be “relatively safe” when they are applied in the right way, that is to say, when directed towards the right area of the body and when the electric shocks last for a short duration.

Deep North Episode 10: First Among Equals

swimming pools iceland

Every weekday morning at the public pool in West Reykjavík (Vesturbæjarlaug), Halldór Bergmann – called Dóri – slips into his grey, square leg suit and declares that he shall swim 1,800 metres (1.1 miles). He is 68 years old, and, also, a great mangler of the truth. He swims only 200 metres (660 feet), on a good day, but does not like the facts getting in the way of a good time – and this may be his best quality: his penchant for childlike embellishment. It’s this trait, above any else, perhaps, that has won over a troop of loyal followers, and why those followers have, in the spirit of his own whimsy, taken to calling him “the Commander.”

In the latest episode of Deep North, we consider Icelandic swimming pool culture and ask: is the public swimming pool a wellspring of social democracy?

State Mediator’s Proposal Meets With Criticism from Efling and SA

SA / Efling Union

State mediator Aðalsteinn Leifsson presented his mediation proposal in the wage dispute between Efling and SA at a press conference yesterday. The proposal met with criticism from both SA and the Efling Union. The state mediator believes that he is well within his legal rights.

A controversial step, setting a questionable precedent

Yesterday, State mediator Aðalsteinn Leifsson presented a special mediating proposal (i.e. miðlunartillaga) to resolve the dispute between the Efling Union and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA). Negotiations between the two parties have devolved into a sort of Gordian knot, with the last meeting between Efling and SA lasting only a minute. The proposal means that members of the Efling union will have to vote on the same contract previously agreed upon by other unions.

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, Chair of Efling, told RÚV yesterday that she believed the state mediator had broken the law with his proposal: he had not consulted with Efling. Halldór Benjamín Þorbergsson, Director of SA, struck a similar note, arguing that it was “the right of the disputing parties” to bring the case to a conclusion.

State Mediator defends his proposal

Following the response from Efling and SA, Aðalsteinn sent out a press release yesterday in which he rejected any claims about the illegality of the proposal. A mediating proposal was one of the resources available to the state mediator to try to ensure peace in the labour market.

“Given the state of the dispute between SA and Efling, it was my assessment, the office’s assessment, that it was inevitable to try this remedy.”

Aðalsteinn admitted that the labour legislation imposes the duty on the state mediator to consult with the parties to a wage dispute before submitting such a proposal: this applies to the content of the proposal and the procedure for voting.

“And that’s why I called representatives of both parties to a meeting with me today for this purpose. I discussed it with them before the proposal was made public. This obligation to consult the parties, however, does not imply that they have the right to intervene or veto the proposal.”

As noted by RÚV, Aðalsteinn denies that the way in which the proposal was presented was illegal in any way. When asked if the parties to a dispute should be familiar with the content of the legislation, he replied that the law was very clear as regards the authorisation of a mediating proposal. “It is also very clear in the labour legislation that when a mediation proposal has been submitted, a vote must take place.”

The proposal a “monstrosity”

Sólveig Anna went on to describe the proposal as a “monstrosity” (i.e. óskapnaður) that failed to mediate anything. Efling’s point of view had not been taken into account: the state mediator was simply imposing SA’s offer on the Efling Union.

Aðalsteinn replied that this was far from the case. He was not proposing an agreement from SA but rather one that the Federation of General and Special workers in Iceland (SGS) had negotiated with SA.

“After very difficult and demanding wage negotiations – where an agreement was struck. This agreement has since been approved by an overwhelming majority of votes in all of the eighteen unions within SGS. It should also be noted that this agreement includes the highest proportional increases that have been settled in this round of wage negotiations, within the general labour market, over the past weeks and months.”

Efling yet to submit its membership list

At the time of writing, the Efling union had not submitted its membership list to the state mediator; the deadline was 8 PM yesterday. As noted by RÚV, Efling is thereby shirking its statutory duty, given that the office of the state mediator has the right to receive the membership list.

Elísabet S. Ólafsdóttir, Chief of Staff at the State Mediator’ office, told RÚV yesterday that the office would have to consider its next steps: “At this stage, we can send Efling another notice. If the notice proves ineffective, it may eventually be necessary to obtain a ruling from the district court to force delivery.”

The proposal will be put to a vote by the members of Efling and voting will begin at 12 noon on Saturday and continue until 5 PM on Tuesday.

This article will be updated