Minister For Justice Áslaug Arna Sigubjörnsdóttir has presented a bill proposing legislation to stop the Icelandic Coast Guard’s air mechanics’ strike.
“Their work concerns public safety and it must be returned to normal immediately,” Áslaug Arna stated. According to her, the bill gives air mechanics freedom to finish wage negotiations by January 4, otherwise, it will be sent to a court of arbitration. She says the whole government is behind the decision.
Read more: Icelandic Coast Guard Air Mechanic Strike
The main sticking point in the negotiations is the Coast Guard’s air mechanics’ will to preserve the link to Iceland’s Union of Aircraft Maintenance Technicians’ wage agreements, whose members mostly constitute Icelandair air mechanics. While the government has offered a one-year extension of the current agreement, giving them the same pay raises as Icelandair’s air mechanics, the Coast Guard’s air mechanics turned down the offer, demanding instead a three-year contract. Sate Conciliation and Mediation Officer Aðalsteinn Leifsson told Vísir yesterday that no new meeting was scheduled between opposing committees. He did not see a reason to schedule another meeting after his attempts to resolve the negotiations didn’t succeed.
Áslaug Arna wrote about the decision to stop the strike on Facebook, stating: “The Icelandic Coast Guard is one of the main foundations of security and public protection in the country. The need for a powerful rescue service is most dire at this time of year as the days are short. Dangerous meteorological conditions are created all over Iceland, not the least for sailors out on fishing grounds. The Icelandic Coast Guard’s helicopters are not only vital when it comes to search and rescue operations on land and sea but they also take care of emergency medical transport, making them an important link in medical and security services for the public.
The air mechanic strike has endangered this safety. The situation is intolerable and I don’t think it right that one profession within the Icelandic Coast Guard can affect the nation’s safety in this way. Especially when other members of the Coast Guard are not allowed to strike due to the importance of their work. The Government’s negotiating committee has offered the Coast Guard’s air mechanics a new agreement with the same pay raises others have received, without continuing the arrangement of linking the wage agreement to ones negotiated by Icelandair. These negotiations have now stranded and air mechanics turned down the state mediator’s suggestion of a one-year extension of the old agreement. The wage negotiation concerns the public interests and the public’s safety. The operation of the Coast Guard’s aircraft simply must return to normal immediately.
Therefore, I have suggested, and the government agreed, to propose to Parliament legislation to stop the strike and sending the wage negotiations to arbitration court if they haven’t been resolved by January 4. The arbitration court will also be asked to consider ways to execute linking the wage agreements in a way that’s comparable to other public employees. All this will be further explained in a report attached to the bill that I will present in Parliament today.”