Optimism in Ongoing Wage Negotiations

Westman Islands fish processing plant

The ongoing collective agreement negotiations in Iceland are going well, according to union representatives. Unions are hoping to negotiate a three-year agreement while the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) is hoping for a five-year agreement. Both sides have a willingness to negotiate, but say the involvement of the government will be crucial.

“We are ready to negotiate and there’s a good spirit between the contracting parties,” stated Vilhjálmur Birgisson, chairman of the Federation of General and Special workers in Iceland (SGS). “We have reached the point now where it’s quite clear that we need to speak to the government before the weekend, to know what their involvement will be in these agreements.”

Price of services and goods rising

January is the month when fee hikes for public services take effect in Iceland. Prices for goods have also been rising alongside high inflation for more than a year. Both unions and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) have called on municipalities and businesses to keep price hikes to a minimum this year to ease the wage negotiations.

Salaries not a sticking point

Vilhjálmur says that wages themselves are not a sticking point in the negotiations at this time, and speculates that the parties can agree on a period between three and five years for the contract.

It is less than a year since the conclusion of very tense and prolonged collective agreement negotiations between SA and Efling. Tension was also high in November after the current negotiations began, and they were put on hold by union leaders due to proposed municipal fee hikes.

Palestinians Continue Protest Outside Parliament

Palestinian protesters outside Iceland's Parliament

A group of Palestinians who have been protesting outside Iceland’s Parliament has received permission from the City of Reykjavík to continue camping in Austurvöllur square until January 17, Vísir reports. Most of the protesters have family members who have been granted residence visas in Iceland on the basis of family reunification but are still stuck in Gaza.

The group is calling on Icelandic authorities to do more to retrieve their family members from the strip, where over 30,000 people have been killed by Israeli attacks since October 7 and conditions are life-threatening.

Western countries have received refugees from Gaza

Naji Asar, who has been granted visas for 14 family members, including eight children, told Heimildin he cannot understand how it was easy to rescue 120 Icelanders who were in Israel on October 7 but not his family members. “If you don’t want to help, help me go back home,” he added. “I want to die with my family. I don’t want to die slowly.”

While Icelandic authorities say the Rafah border crossing between Palestine and Egypt is closed, a statement from the group of protestors points out that countries such as the UK, Canada, Germany, Norway, and Sweden received refugees from Gaza in December.

Three demands to Icelandic authorities

The group has made three demands of Icelandic authorities. Firstly, to carry out the family reunifications for which they have already granted visas. Secondly, a meeting with the Minster for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Social Affairs and the Labour Market. Thirdly, to stop the ongoing deportations of Palestinian people in Iceland and grant them international protection.

Icelandic activist groups have organised regular protests and solidarity marches calling on Icelandic authorities to carry out the family reunifications that have been promised, as well as and condemn Israel’s ongoing aggression and apply sanctions against Israel. The next solidarity march will be held this Saturday at 2:00 PM outside the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Never More Strain on Hospital, Chief Physician Says

Emergency room

New rules took effect today at Iceland’s National University Hospital of Iceland due to increased strain and an outbreak of respiratory infections. Mask use is once again mandatory for outpatients and visitors, and visiting hours have been reduced. Chief Physician of the Infectious Diseases Ward Már Kristjánsson told RÚV it is “the most strain that we have ever seen the hospital under.”

Mandatory mask use

Mask use is mandatory in all interactions with patients as of today, January 4. Inpatients are not required to wear masks, but outpatients and their chaperones are required to do so. Visitors and others entering the hospital are also required to wear surgical masks. In departments where COVID-19 outbreaks occur, staff are required to wear fine particle (FFP2) masks.

Visiting hours have been shortened and will be between 4:30 and 7:30 PM on weekdays and 2:30-7:30 PM on weekends. The hospital recommends guests come one at a time and wash their hands upon entering the hospital.

Exceptions may be granted

Sibling visits to the children’s hospital are only permitted in consultation with the children’s ward staff. Exceptions to all of the new infection prevention regulations can be granted by department or shift managers.

Read more about the National Hospital’s persistent problem of patient flow.