Lack of Funding to Maintain Westfjords Roads

2018 Vatnsnesvegur, A screenshot from RÚV

Many roads in the Westfjords and West Iceland have become dangerous due to lack of maintenance, according to representatives of the Road and Coastal Administration, RÚV reports. In both regions, a lack of funding has left roads in poor shape, posing risks for travellers. Infrastructure funding would need to be quadrupled to complete all of the maintenance and construction currently needed on West Iceland roads, says Pálmi Þór Sævarsson, the area’s regional director for the Road and Coastal Administration.

A driver narrowly avoided a rollover last Sunday on the road between Búðardalur and Bifröst in West Iceland. He stated that he lost control of the car due to the number of potholes in the road. Despite the road’s poor condition, the speed limit was set at 90 km [56 miles] per hour. Sæmundur Kristánsson, the head supervisor of the Road and Coastal Administration in Búðardalur, says the road where the near-rollover occurred is narrower than the standard width. While widening the road is on the agenda, its financing has not yet been approved.

Pálmi Þór says similarly poor road conditions can be found across West Iceland, the Snæfellsnes peninsula, and the Westfjords, and they point to a larger problem across the Icelandic countryside: a lack of funding for road maintenance. Iceland has a “maintenance debt” that has been built up over many years, says Pálmi, and many roads are starting to give way under increasing traffic. The problem needs to be dealt with before it goes from bad to worse.

Two Injured in Tálknafjörður Fire

Two people have been transported to hospital with minor burns due to a fire at a fish fry farm in Tálknafjörður in the Westfjords, RÚV reports. The fire broke out in a building at the site that was still under construction. Fire crews continued to fight the flames as of 12:30 PM this afternoon and were doing their best to protect neighbouring buildings.

The area around the fire has been evacuated, and firefighting crews from other Westfjords towns, including Patreksfjörður and Ísafjörður, have been called in to help. Westfjords police had closed roads through the area and warned travellers and locals to respect them. Firefighting crews have managed to protect areas of the site that carry a risk of explosion, such as oil tanks and power stations.

The new building, now heavily damaged, was expected to cost around ISK 4 billion [$27.8 million, €26.2 million]. Arctic Fish representatives have stated the total cost of the damage is as of yet unknown. Authorities say the fire is now under control but that crews will continue working for quite a long time. The fire did not reach any other buildings or affect any of the fish at the farm.

Not Paying Workers During Lockout is Sólveig’s Decision, Efling Vice-Chair Says

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir

There are no regulations that prevent Efling Union from paying workers during the lockout set to begin on March 2, according to the union’s Vice-Chair Agnieszka Ewa Ziółkowska. The statement contrasts with previous assertions from the union’s Chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, who has stated that Efling would not make payouts to workers in the case of a lockout. In a post on her Facebook page, Agnieszka stated not providing financial support to workers affected by the lockout would be Sólveig’s personal decision, and criticised Sólveig for being “willing to have her low-wage members suffer.”

The Icelandic Confederation of Enterprise (SA) has approved a lockout of some 20,000 workers set to begin on March 2, the latest escalation in a fraught collective agreement negotiation between SA and Efling. During the lockout, Efling workers would not be permitted to show up to their employment. As such, they would not receive wages, accrue leave, or receive pension payments. Efling is currently paying striking members from its labour dispute fund, but a notice from the union stated that it would not make payments in the case of a lockout. According to the notice, “the union does not hold responsibility for a lockout and the labour dispute fund cannot sustain such payments.”

“The members of Efling have the right to know that the rules of the union aren’t stopping their chairman from paying from the fund in the case of the [lockout],” Agnieszka wrote on Facebook. “Its just her decision.” Agnieszka added that paying workers affected by the lockout was the “right thing” to do.

Lockout Affecting 20,000 Workers in Iceland Approved

Halldór Benjamín Þorbergsson SA Icelandic Confederation of Enterprise

Members of the Icelandic Confederation of Enterprise (SA) have approved a lockout of some 20,000 workers set to begin on March 2 at noon, RÚV reports. CEO of SA Halldór Benjamín Þorbergsson has called it a “last resort” to force the conclusion of a collective agreement with Efling Union. Efling Chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir says SA is using a lockout to force the government to step into the conflict.

Vast majority vote in favour of lockout

Nearly 88% of companies in SA voted on the lockout, with 94% voting in favour. During the lockout, Efling workers would not be permitted to show up to their employment. As such, they would not receive wages, accrue leave, or receive pension payments. Exceptions would be granted for workers in healthcare and other essential jobs, according to SA. Efling is Iceland’s second-largest union and the lockout would greatly impact the entire Icelandic economy.

In a press conference yesterday, Halldór Benjamín stated that the lockout was a response to Efling workers’ ongoing strikes, which led several hotels to temporarily close their doors. While those strikes are ongoing, Efling has postponed further strikes scheduled to begin on February 28, of additional workers in security companies, cleaning companies, and hotels.

Lockout is an attempt to involve government, Sólveig says

“This play is aimed at the government,” Efling Chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir told RÚV when asked about the lockout. “Because Halldór Benjamín cannot make a collective agreement with Efling, he’s is waiting for the government to come and release him from the predicament he’s gotten into, and of course, we will wait and see if that happens.” Both Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Labour Minister Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson have stated it is in SA and Efling’s hands to reach an agreement.

When asked whether the dispute could be resolved without government intervention, Sólveig answered: “I believe at this point in time that nothing is more obvious than the fact that SA does not intend and does not want to enter into a collective agreement with Efling.”

The pending lockout could leave Efling members in a tight spot as the union’s leaders appear to disagree on whether to make payouts to affected workers.

If you could only visit one black sand beach which one would you choose?

djúpalónssandur black sand beach

The classic answer is certainly Reynisfjara, a black sand beach on the South Coast of Iceland. Its location off of Route 1 makes it ideal to visit on a drive along the coast, where you can also see some of Iceland’s other major attractions, such as the waterfalls Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss.

The beach is also notable for the striking basalt formations that can be found there, in addition to its view of Dyrhólaey, an arched rock formation in the sea. Note that Reynisfjara can also be a very dangerous place to visit. In the past years, numerous visitors have been swept out to sea by so-called “sneaker” waves, which can reach much farther up the beach than expected. Visitors to Reynisfjara are advised to always keep an eye on the waves and to stay 30 m, or about 100 ft, from the waves.

Reynisfjara tourists
Golli. Tourists at Reynisfjara

Reynisfjara has become incredibly popular in recent years, but another option for the traveller looking to beat the crowds is Djúpalónssandur, a black sand beach on the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

Like Reynisfjara, Djúpalónssandur beach is a day trip away from the capital region and it is also located near other iconic sites. In addition to the dramatic, natural beauty there, Djúpalónssandur is also home to a wrecked fishing trawler. For the history buff and aspiring strongman, four lifting stones can also be found near the beach. The area was once a bustling fishing hub, and sailors would lift the stones to test their strength. In order to qualify for work on a fishing boat, a sailor would have to be able to lift a certain stone to prove his strength and ability to “pull his own weight.”

djúpalónssandur black sand beach iceland
Djúpalónssandur – Golli

 

 

 

Which languages are required to work as a nurse in Iceland?

Nurses Hospital Landsspítalinn við Hringbraut

For some years now, there has been a shortage in healthcare professionals in Iceland. In fact, despite the relatively high standard of public healthcare, Iceland has some of the lowest ratios of nurses and general practitioners to the population in Europe, meaning that working in healthcare in Iceland is a high-demand field.

Partially in response to these staffing shortages, previous requirements to speak Icelandic have been lifted in the last years. There are, however, some things to keep in mind.

The Icelandic Directorate of Health issues licenses to practice as a registered nurse in Iceland. On the application for applicants who have studied in an EEA country or Switzerland there is no specific requirement regarding language requirements. However, the applications are only available in Icelandic and English on their website. Applicants who have studied in countries outside the EEA or Switzerland are required to submit a course syllabus, or a detailed description of the classes concerned, in Icelandic and English.

In addition to that, individual employers can require job applicants to speak Icelandic. It varies between hospitals and institutions. If you have specific questions, it’s best to refer them to the employer in question.

If you are interested in a career in healthcare in Iceland. you may find the following resources helpful: