Strikes Likely to Force Closure of Swimming Pools This Weekend

Reykjavík swimming pool Laugardalslaug

Strikes by members of the BSRB union who are employed by swimming pools will most likely force the closure of public pools in West, North, and East Iceland over the Whit Sunday weekend. Sonja Ýr Þorbergsdóttir, Chair of BSRB, told today that “the knot had been slightly loosened” in the wage negotiations between the BSRB and the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities (SNS), although there remained “some distance” between the negotiating parties.

Strikes begin

On May 15, BSRB – Iceland’s largest federation of public sector unions, comprising 19 labour unions with some 23,000 members – began strike action as part of its ongoing negotiations with the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities (SNS). Some 1,000 workers – including staff in preschools in Kópavogur, Garðabær, and Mosfellsbær, and primary schools in Kópavogur, Seltjarnarnes, and Mosfellsbær – went on strike.

Further strike action was approved last Friday, May 19, which means that this weekend, the number of people participating in BSRB strikes will be around 1,700. Eighteen municipalities will be affected by the strikes.

As noted in an announcement from BSRB this morning, the staff of swimming pools and sports centres in West, North, and East Iceland are among those who will begin strikes this weekend. This will most likely mean that numerous public pools within affected municipalities will be forced to close their doors to visitors over the Whit Sunday weekend.

“If agreements are not reached before June 5, swimming pools and sports centres will be added in even more municipalities, including the capital area, until agreements are reached,” the announcement further notes.

Sonja Ýr Þorbergsdóttir, Chair of BSRB, told today that “the knot had been slightly loosened” in the wage negotiations between the BSRB and the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities; although there remained “some distance” between the negotiating parties.

The staff of the following swimming pools and sports facilities will stop working this weekend:

Akureyri swimming pool
Glerárskóli swimming pool (Glerárskóli Sports Centre)
The sports centre in Hrísey (swimming pool and gym)

Dalvík sports centre (swimming pool)

The swimming pool in Ólafsfjörður and the Fjallabyggð sports centre in Ólafsfjörður
The swimming pool in Siglufjörður and the Fjallabyggð sports centre in Siglufjörður

The swimming pool in Varmahlíð and the Varmahlíð sports centre
Sauðárkrókur swimming pool and the Sauðárkrókur sports centre
The swimming pool in Hofsós

Stefánslaug in Neskaupstaður

Swimming pool and sports centre in Borgarnes

Snæfellsbær swimming pool and sports centre

Brattahlíð, swimming pool in Patreksfjörður

Uncertainty Regarding Winter Mooring of Whaling Ships

Iceland whaling Hvalur hf

Reykjavík’s City Council recently agreed to entrust the board of Associated Icelandic Ports (AIP) to find another place for the whaling company Hvalur’s fishing vessels, which have moored during the winter at the old harbour in Reykjavík for decades. A spokesperson for AIP has stated that the association has yet to receive the formal request from City Council.

Agreement reached by Reykjavík Council

On May 16, reported that the City Council of Reykjavík agreed to entrust the board of Associated Icelandic Ports (i.e. Faxaflóahafnir) to find another place for the fishing vessels of the whaling company Hvalur. For decades, the company’s vessels have docked in the middle of Reykjavík’s old harbour over the wintertime.

Líf Magneudóttir, City Council representative for the Left-Green Movement, originally submitted a proposal to entrust the board of Associated Icelandic Ports to revise or dismiss its contract with Hvalur regarding the mooring of the company’s whaling ships in the old harbour of Reykjavík (or, in another way, see to it that the whaling ships were found some other place to dock) as the old harbour in Reykjavík was a centre of tourism and whale watching.

Magnea Gná Jóhannsdóttir, City Council fepresentative of the Progressive Party, subsequently submitted an amendment to the proposal wherein the board of Associated Icelandic Ports Faxaflóhafnar was entrusted with finding a different docking place for the vessels. That amended proposal was approved with 16 votes and 5 abstentions.

Official request expected to arrive soon

Yesterday, port manager Gunnar Tryggvason told Fiskifréttir that a formal request had not been received by Associated Icelandic Ports although he expected the request to arrive soon. Fiskifréttir also quotes Haraldur Benediktsson, Mayor of Akranes, as saying that the vessels would be well received by Akranes – were it not for the fact that the town’s harbour lacked the necessary infrastructure (i.e. a hot-water pipe, akin to the one in the old harbour in Reykjavík, which has long been used to heat the whaling ships in winter and to prevent the formation of mildew).

The article notes that Hvalur could moor its vessels at a port outside the Associated Icelandic Ports; such a thing could prove a significant windfall for the receiving port. “It would be possible to move the ships to other ports owned by Faxaflóahafnir: Sundahöfn and Akranes, for example. But that possibility has not been discussed,” Gunnar observed. “We are waiting for the request to be received officially, but it is no problem on the part of Associated Icelandic Ports to take this matter into consideration.”

Possible alternatives

As noted in the article, the harbour in Hafnarfjörður could serve as a possible alternative because it is not much further from Hafnarfjörður to whaling grounds, or to the whale processing in Hvalfjörður.

Gunnar also noted that berthing space in the Sundahöfn harbour could soon become available as it appears likely that the now-defunct patrol ships Týr and Ægir would depart from the harbour soon. The patrol ships were constructed in 1975 and 1968 and were sold to the company Fagri last year. The berth will quickly be used for other purposes, however, with Gunnar observing that the aim is for Sundahöfn to be the future berthing site of tugboats of the Associated Icelandic Ports.

The only steam-powered vessels in Iceland

As noted by the article on Fiskifréttir, the upcoming summer whaling operations will utilise two ships, namely Hvalur 8 and Hvalur 9, both of which were constructed in Norway in 1948 and 1952, respectively. Within Hvalfjörður, there are two additional whaling vessels, Hvalur 5 and Hvalur 6, primarily used for spare parts. These four ships constitute the only registered vessels in the Icelandic fleet equipped with steam engines. The steam boilers on these ships are heated using oil, powering engines that generate approximately 2,000 horsepower.

As previously reported by Iceland Review, Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir has stated that it is not possible to halt whaling this season, despite a report showing that the practice is not in line with legislation on animal welfare.

Yellow Weather Alerts in Most of Iceland Tonight and Tomorrow

Yellow weather alerts will be in place in North Iceland, East Iceland, Southeast Iceland, and the Central Highlands tonight and tomorrow, Vísir reports. Residents in the Eastfjords and Southeast Iceland are encouraged to secure outdoor furniture.

Storms to hit hardest in East Iceland and Central Highlands

Following some rather untoward weather in Iceland over the past few days, yellow weather alerts will come into effect in North Iceland, East Iceland, Southeast Iceland, and the Central Highlands tonight and tomorrow, Vísir reports. Most of the alerts will take effect tomorrow morning and will be valid until 3 PM Saturday (some alerts will take effect tonight).

The Westfjords, Northeast, and Northwest Iceland will likely see snowfall on mountain roads, with poor visibility and driving conditions; and there will be rain and sleet in the lowlands. East Iceland will experience sharp gusts, with stormy weather on mountain roads, poor visibility, and deteriorating driving conditions until midday tomorrow (“hazardous conditions” for travel). The weather will be at its worst, however, in the Eastfjords and Southeast Iceland – where residents are encouraged to secure outdoor furniture – and in the Central Highlands.

Waiting on summer

The weather is, however, expected to improve around the beginning of June. As noted by Vísir yesterday, meteorology enthusiast Mohammed Emin Kizilkaya recently predicted that residents could expect good weather around the end of the month, for “summer would be on its way to the country.”

In an interview with the hosts of the radio programme Reykjavík síðdegis yesterday, Meteorologist Sigurður Þ. Ragnarsson agreed with Mohammed’s assessment: “It must be said that what he is saying is visible on our maps,” Sigurður observed.

Mohammed predicted that temperatures of up to 25°C could be expected in East Iceland on May 28. “He is also quite right in saying that temperatures in the east will exceed twenty degrees. Not necessarily on May 28, however, but it is likely,” Sigurður commented.

“It’s also right to note,” Sigurður continued, “that this is what we, both myself, Einar Sveinbjörnsson, and others, have been talking about: we’re expecting a good summer and what’s happening is that this high-pressure zone in the south is bringing humid, tropical air. This means that we’ll get westerly winds while this high-pressure zone remains to the south of the country, which further means that weather in East Iceland will be prime.”

No premature celebrations

In the aforementioned interview, Sigurður warned against any premature celebrations of summer: “Because we have to endure Saturday, which will be a day of bad weather, cold and insufferable – but then things will begin to improve. This high-pressure zone is heading over the country, and then we will have sunshine in most if not all parts of the country.”

Sigurður added that the eastern and southern parts of Iceland were looking the most favourable, as far as the forecasts were concerned, for the last days of May. “But it’s an extremely favourable outlook, and it’s in the spirit of what we’ve been talking about. It doesn’t surprise me that now is the time that summer begins – and that it will do so with full force.”

“I would really like to have a summer house in East Iceland as it looks now,” Sigurður concluded by saying.

Deep North Episode 27: Man of the People

gísli einars

Gísli Einarsson must rank as one of Iceland’s most prolific television producers. When afforded the opportunity of stepping behind the camera and training his lens upon the world, Gísli’s audience saw the world not as it was – but as Gísli was: it took a true rustic, proud of his provincial manners and heritage, to make it to the national broadcaster in Reykjavík and focus our collective attention on the people of rural Iceland. This most domestically-travelled man in Iceland (such is his reputation) has now produced over 500 episodes for his TV series Landinn (e. The Local), and he’s recently staged a show on the subject of his own travels. This makes him, in the eyes of Iceland Review, the ideal interlocutor.

Amendment Aims to Increase Reporting on Domestic Abuse

Nurses Hospital Landsspítalinn við Hringbraut

Health Minister Willum Þórs Þórsson’s bill to amend the Healthcare Practitioners Act has been approved by Parliament. The amendment clarifies the authority of healthcare professionals to report cases of domestic violence to the police.

Clarifies the authority of healthcare professionals

As noted in a press release on the government’s website yesterday, a bill proposed by Health Minister Willum Þór Þórsson to amend the Healthcare Practitioners Act has successfully gained approval from Parliament. This amendment is aimed at providing clarity regarding the authority of healthcare professionals to report cases of domestic violence to the police. The consultation process with the victim, who seeks medical assistance at a healthcare facility, is emphasised in the amendment. It clearly outlines the information that may be shared with the police, enabling them to take appropriate measures to ensure the victim’s safety and provide the necessary support.

As highlighted in the press release, healthcare facilities serve as crucial points of contact for victims of domestic violence, with healthcare professionals often being the first and sometimes only individuals to become aware of such incidents. Conversely, the majority of cases reported to the police stem from calls made from homes, while only approximately 2% of domestic violence reports originate from healthcare institutions, as stated in the amendment’s notes. Findings from a doctoral study conducted in 2021 revealed that, on average, one woman seeks assistance at the National University Hospital in Fossvogur every other day due to physical injuries resulting from domestic violence. Records from the hospital indicate, however, that out of the cases involving women admitted between 2005 and 2019 with physical injuries caused by domestic violence, the police were involved in only 12% of those incidents.

Increased flow of information

The Health Minister’s amendment aims to enhance the exchange of information between the healthcare system and the police, with the primary objective of safeguarding and supporting victims of domestic abuse while reducing the likelihood of recurring violence. Moreover, this amendment aligns with the recommendations put forth by the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. The Convention recently proposed that the Icelandic government establish a clear channel for healthcare practitioners to report instances of domestic violence to the police.

The press release highlighted the welfare committee’s stance on the need to strengthen collaboration between health institutions and the police in their joint efforts against domestic violence. This amendment plays a pivotal role in advancing that cause, emphasising the importance of “breaking down barriers to information sharing across different sectors.” By doing so, the authorities would be able to better ensure the safety of victims and enhance their trust in the available resources.

Standardised procedures for receiving victims of domestic violence

The press release concludes by highlighting the ongoing efforts to establish a standardised procedure within the healthcare system for receiving victims of domestic violence. These procedures are slated to be adopted in the coming fall and subsequently implemented across all health institutions in Iceland.

The primary objective is to ensure that victims receive appropriate healthcare, which entails not only the involvement of a doctor and nurse but also establishing stronger connections with social workers and trauma teams. Simultaneously, these procedures aim to ensure that all domestic violence cases are consistently registered and handled in a comparable manner, guaranteeing that victims receive equitable services regardless of their place of residence or financial status.

It is important to note that the implementation of these procedures is separate from the aforementioned amendment to the Act on Healthcare Practitioners. However, both endeavours share a common goal of enhancing the handling of domestic violence cases, supporting the work of healthcare professionals in such situations, and improving services provided to victims.