Both the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and the Nordic Transport Workers’ Federation (NTF) have issued statements condemning “Icelandair’s actions during the negotiations with the cabin crew union FFÍ.” The statements come after a contentious, months-long negotiation process which came to a standstill when the airline announced in mid-July that it would lay off all of its flight attendants and seek a contract with “another party within the Icelandic labour market.” FFÍ requested to meet with Icelandair the following day, however, and by early morning on July 19, a new contract between the two parties had been hammered out.
In their July 31 statement, ETF Pilots roundly condemned the Icelandair’s “union-busting practices to hinder their legitimate resistance against a new contract with significantly worse working conditions,” calling the airline’s actions an “unprecedented attack on the legitimate rights of workers and their union” and a “flagrant breach of safety obligations.” The ETF Pilots also condemned the action of Icelandair pilots, who they say “made themselves available to undermine the position of the cabin crew and thereby put the professional image of pilots as well as safety standards at risk.”
The NTF, which represents 41 transport unions through the Nordic countries, then issued their own statement of solidarity this week saying that it had seen similar actions taken by another (unnamed) airline in the past “and still years after, the work community suffers from the scars left by the events.”
Both federations emphasized that “no category of workers should ever be used to undermine the position of other workers,” while the NTF echoed the sentiments of FFÍ chairperson Guðlaug Líney Jóhannsdóttir, saying that trust will need to be rebuilt between Icelandair and its cabin crew staff.
“We…encourage the company to use resources for re-healing the working environment and nurturing trust,” concluded the NTF statement. “The world is slowly opening after the lockdowns. It will take some time before we get to the new normal, but the world will recover. We must use this time for finding new, more sustainable and fair ways of working. Devoted workers are the most valuable resource of an airline. They will be needed, now more than ever. Treat them well.”
95,000 ticket refunds since the start of the pandemic
Icelandair has suffered large losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, reporting a loss of ISK 12.3 billion ($19.8 million/€77.6 million) in the second quarter of 2020. The airline has continued to operate minimal flights to and from Iceland, primarily to Boston, London, and Stockholm, with the help of government funding and has announced its intention to make a public stock offering in August as part of the financial restructuring of the company.
Significant booking cancellations have further exacerbated the airline’s situation. RÚV reports that Icelandair has had to refund 95,000 bookings since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and airline’s woes are far from over: PR representative Ásdís Ýr Pétursdóttir says the airline is currently facing 35,000 outstanding refund or credit requests.