Sympathy Strike Declared Illegal Skip to content

Sympathy Strike Declared Illegal

By Larissa Kyzer

Strike efling hotel workers union
Photo: Golli. Efling Union hotel workers strike in 2019.

Iceland’s Labour Court has deemed the Efling labour union’s proposed sympathy strike of workers in the Federation of Independent Schools in Iceland illegal, RÚV reports. The proposed strike was scheduled to start at noon on Monday, March 9 and was appealed by SA, the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise.

The sympathy strike was proposed in the wake of stalled negotiations between Efling and the City of Reykjavík. Some 1,850 city employees—including workers in preschools, primary schools, welfare services, and sanitation—have been involved in the ongoing strike actions. Garbage collection did resume this week, however, amid concerns connected to COVID-19. The proposed sympathy strike would include some 500 additional employees who work for the municipalities of Kópavogsbær, Seltjarnarnes, Mosfellsbær, Hveragerði, and Ölfus, as well as those who work in private schools.

“Negotiations on the demands put forward by Efling in relation to the renewal of the Union’s collective agreement with the City of Reykjavík, which expired on 31 March 2019, on behalf of Efling’s members, have proved unfruitful despite the State Conciliation and Mediation Officer’s efforts,” reads an announcement on the Efling website. “On 10 January, this year, Efling’s negotiating committee to the City of Reykjavík agreed to propose a work stoppage for members of Efling working for the City of Reykjavík, under the collective agreement between the City of Reykjavík and Efling. On 17 February, a strike was commenced for an indefinite period, and it is this strike which the sympathy strike now being called is intended to support.”

The City of Reykjavík made an offer to Efling during negotiations in late February, which would include an increase in the average monthly wage of general staff in preschools to ISK 460,000 ($3,620/€3,300) by the year 2022; cutting four hours from the work week, and increasing the number of vacation days to 30 for all employees of the City of Reykjavík.

In its decision, the Labour Court stated that it is impermissible to enter a sympathy strike in order to compel improved conditions in the workplaces that are taking part in a sympathy strike; sympathy strikes can only legally be undertaken to support the union that initiated the strike. According to the Labour Court, this sympathy strike would intend to improve the terms of the Federation of Independent Schools’ contracts as well, and is therefore considered illegal.

Not all of the judges who heard the case were in agreement. Justice Guðni Á. Haraldsson issued a dissenting opinion, stating that he believes the proposed sympathy strike to be legal.




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