Iceland’s PM Violated Equality Laws Skip to content

Iceland’s PM Violated Equality Laws

Prime Minister of Iceland Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir violated the laws on equality when Arnar Thór Másson was hired as office manager at the Prime Minister’s Office in June when there was a better qualified female applicant, Anna Kristín Ólafsdóttir, according to a ruling by the Equality Complaints Committee.

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Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir. Photo by Páll Kjartansson.

PM Sigurdardóttir announced in the Althingi parliament just now that she will not resign because of the ruling in spite of the opposition’s calls for her resignation, visir.is reports.

Ólafsdóttir filed a complaint to the committee because Másson was chosen over her, Fréttabladid reports.

The committee concluded that Ólafsdóttir’s education made her better suited for the position than Másson’s education and that their work experience was equal. In terms of leadership qualities, Ólafsdóttir was better suited for the job as she had had a leading position in former jobs, unlike Másson.

The Prime Minister’s Office appointed an independent expert as an advisor in the hiring process. The applicants were interviewed and rated based on their answers to different questions. The committee stated that the information at hand about the answers and how they were evaluated is not fulfilling.

In an announcement sent to the media yesterday, the Prime Minister’s Office said the hiring was professional. Ólafsdóttir will be invited to discuss the matter at a meeting.

“It was the unanimous decision of officials and the advisor that the most qualified applicant was given the job and that was the conclusion presented to the prime minister,” the announcement reads.

“The only interference the prime minister had in the preparation process was to emphasize that the most qualified applicant should be appointed and that special care should be taken so that the laws on equality were followed on all fronts,” it continues.

The announcement reveals that Ólafsdóttir was rated fifth in terms of who was the most qualified applicant and Másson first.

Sigurdardóttir told Stöd 2 that she has a clean conscience but that she is sorry that equality laws were violated.

The PM pointed out that she would probably have been criticized if Ólafsdóttir had been hired as she was rated as the fifth most qualified applicant, is a member of the Social Democratic Alliance, the party which Sigurdardóttir chairs, and is a former assistant to Social Democrat MP Thórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir during her time as Minister for the Environment.

Human resource consultant Arndís Ósk Jónsdóttir, who participated in the hiring process, criticizes the committee’s work methods in a report sent to the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday. She maintains that the hiring process was professional.

In 2004, Sigurdardóttir called for the resignation of the then Minister of Justice Björn Bjarnason after the Equality Complaints Committee concluded that he had violated the laws on equality in the appointing of a Supreme Court judge.

“In other democratic nations a minister who violates laws and regulations so seriously would have been made to step down. But in this country ministers can do whatever they want and ministers get away with everything,” Sigurdardóttir commented in parliament at the time.

“The respected minister hasn’t done anything about the fact that he is not only guilty of violating equality laws but also eluding the article on equality in the constitution and the administration’s equality regulations,” she added.

“What is the minister’s political responsibility? Is it fulfilled, in the minister’s opinion, if the person who was violated is given damages or is the minister to resign?” Sigurdardóttir asked Bjarnason.

Independence Party MP Thorgerdur Katrín Gunnarsdóttir said at parliament yesterday that Sigurdardóttir’s position is embarrassing and very serious, especially given how harshly the PM has criticized ministers for such violations before she took office.

Social Democrat MP Thórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir agreed that the matter is very serious, saying that the committee’s ruling is soundly reasoned and conclusive.

Kristín Ástgeirsdóttir, the committee’s managing director, told ruv.is that the most likely course of events is that the prime minister will reach an agreement with the complaintant.

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