Efling Union’s decision to lay off all of its staff has stirred up conflict within the labour movement in Iceland. The union’s returning chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir says the layoffs were inevitable, but she has received harsh criticism for the decision from the Icelandic Confederation of Labour and the Icelandic Confederation of University Graduates.
Letter of dismissal sent out at 2:00 AM
All employees of the Efling Union office received a letter of dismissal by email at 2:00 AM this morning. The letter states that their employment contract has been terminated due to “organisational and operational changes” that apply to all full-time positions at the union. It also states that the period of notice is in accordance with each individual’s employment contract, but employees are requested to fulfill their work obligations during the notice period.
Sólveig Anna has stated that the dismissals were an inevitable part of the changes that she is implementing as returning chairperson of the union. The dismissals are intended to support an acceptable gap between the lowest and highest wages at the union office and ensure equality and transparency in employee wages, according to Sóveig Anna. The dismissal letter says new positions at the union will be advertised and encourages laid-off employees to apply.
Both Drífa Snædal, the president of the Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASÍ) and Friðrik Jónsson, the chairman of the Icelandic Confederation of University Graduates (BHM) have criticised the group dismissal. Friðrik called the layoff alarming and stated it was clear that the board of Efling wanted to get rid of unwanted employees.
Costly personnel issues
Sólveig Anna resigned as chair of Efling last October, in the wake of allegations of bullying within the Efling office. During Sólveig Anna’s four-year tenure, the union spent close to ISK 130 million [$1.04 million; € 909,063] on personnel-related matters and 40 out of 50 of the union’s employees (80%) resigned from their positions, according to a report prepared in collaboration with the union. Sólveig was re-elected as chair of the union in February.
Assistant Professor of History Sumarliði Ísleifsson, who has researched the history of Iceland’s labour movement, called this morning’s layoffs unprecedented and stated that they could impact the upcoming wage negotiations. According to Sumarliði, the Icelandic labour movement’s strength in recent negotiations has been based in solidarity between unions and confederations.