Almost 60 representatives of labor unions, employer associations, local authorities and the state launched talks on a “national reconciliation” yesterday, to reach solidarity on economic, wage and social issues. A conclusion is to be reached by June 9.
President of ASÍ Gylfi Arnbjörnsson. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.
“It is of great significance that all of these parties of interest are cooperating and that the government has the intent to participate in these talks,” President of the Confederation of Labor (ASÍ) Gylfi Arnbjörnsson told Fréttabladid.
Minister of Social Affairs Árni Páll Árnason, who attended yesterday’s meeting, said that it is very important and pleasing that the representatives of the employment market approach the issues at stake with such responsibility.
“And of course that calls for the government contributing towards an agreement,” Árnason commented. No conditions have been made for the negotiations.
“There are many different opinions and different interests at stake but we have to work together on finding solutions to a number of problems. If that is achieved in a broad reconciliation, it may happen that with time the conclusion will be known as a ‘national reconciliation’,” Arnbjörnsson said.
In 1990, a similar agreement was reached between the government and representatives of the employment market after a difficult economic situation the previous winter. That agreement is widely known as a “national reconciliation” or “thjódarsátt” in Icelandic.
Arnbjörnsson pointed out that the negotiators represent the interests of around 150,000 people, almost half the Icelandic nation.
The reviewing of wage contracts and planned pay raises, which were supposed to take place at the beginning of this year, were postponed due to the crisis and Arnbjörnsson is optimistic that they can now be discussed and that acceptable solutions can be found.
Managing director of the Confederation of Icelandic Employers (SA) Vilhjálmur Egilsson agrees that discussing the extension of wage contracts is of importance as well as wage development between the general and official employment market.
“Then people want to discuss what opportunities are at hand for the employment market in general to live up to these agreements and to pay out these increases. Also what opportunities there are to keep people employed,” Egilsson added.
Egilsson would like to see a “stabilization pact,” which sets goals for the economy with regard to inflation, policy rate, the exchange rate and the employment rate. “We have also emphasized abolishing the currency restrictions and the quota lapse ideas.”
Egilsson suggested instead that laws on fisheries management be reviewed without predetermined goals or deadlines. SA is also keen on reviewing the arrangement of the banks, the reshuffling of the employment market and the state’s asset management.
Click here to read more about the postponement of reviewing the wage contracts.