With many labour contracts expiring at the end of October, pressure is mounting on the current round of negotiations.
Kristján Þórður Snæbjarnarson, acting chairman of ASÍ after Drífa Snædal’s resignation earlier this year, has stated that a major issue at ASÍ’s upcoming conference will of course be wage increases, but that choosing new leadership will play an equally important role.
Drífa’s departure earlier this year caused some turmoil within ASÍ leadership, which Kristján states has unfortunately turned the energies of the association towards inward power struggles, not outward to the wage negotiations.
So far, VR president Ragnar Þór Ingólfsson is the only one to announce their candidacy for ASÍ president, but there still remains the opportunity for individuals to announce their candidacy at the conference.
Another debated issue in the current negotiations is the role of the state mediator. Kristján is on record calling for a simplified process by which unions can call for strikes, giving them relatively more power at the bargaining table. Notably, many other trade unions in the Nordic nations also allow for leadership to call unilaterally for a strike, circumventing the need for union-wide votes. Kristján has called for such reforms to the strike process in lieu of strengthening the role of the state mediator.
The wage negotiations take place against the backdrop of an ever-rising cost of living in Iceland. Main contributing factors include inflation and rising interest rates that have seen mortgage payments increase significantly this year.
Yesterday, the Central Bank announced a .25% increase to the interest rate. Ásgeir Jónsson, governor of the Central Bank, warned that the course of inflation in Iceland was largely up to the labour market. The rate increase could be interpreted as an attempt to dissuade negotiators from too-ambitious of wage increases, as they may drive inflation further.