“These Are Black Times:” Reykjanes Hard Hit By Group Layoffs Skip to content

“These Are Black Times:” Reykjanes Hard Hit By Group Layoffs

By Larissa Kyzer

Reykjanesbær
Photo: Photo: Reykjanesbær Facebook Page.

A total of 4,200 employees lost their jobs in group layoffs in just two days this week, RÚV reports. Thirty-six companies announced group layoffs on Thursday. The Reykjanes peninsula in Southwest Iceland, where tourism is the primary industry, has been particularly hard hit; labour leader Guðbjörg Kristmundsdóttir estimates that unemployment will exceed 30% in the region by the end of May.

Over half of the laid-off individuals, or 2,140 people, were Icelandair employees. The remaining 2,070 worked for other companies.

“In terms of the number of layoffs, this is the worst month I can remember,” said Unnur Sverrisdóttir, head of the Directorate of Labour. “About 99% of them are in the tourism sector.”

Most of the layoffs have been in the capital area and Reykjanes region.

“The outlook is really bad,” remarked Guðbjörg Kristmundsdóttir, chair of the Labour and Seamen’s Union of Keflavík (VSFK). “I think over the last two days, 400 people from my union have lost their jobs. That’s a significant proportion of a 5,000-person union. These are black times.” Guðbjörg said that her union has received little information from car rental companies and hotels in the region, which she expects will lay off additional members in the up-and-coming.

While the group layoffs of the last few days have certainly been difficult for Reykjanes locals, they are by no means the first. The Blue Lagoon, also located in Reykjanes, laid off 164 employees in late March, days after closing amidst the coronavirus crisis. Reykjanes was also hit hard by WOW air’s bankruptcy last year. Locals haven’t completely lost hope amidst the current difficulties, says Guðbjörg, but there’s a far greater degree of uncertainty now. “Now, there’s little likelihood that people who lose their jobs will get another one,” she said. “There are no jobs to be had.” Currently, unemployment in Reykjanes is around 24%, but Guðbjörg fears that it will exceed 30% by the end of May.

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