Voting on New Mediating Proposal “the Right Decision” Skip to content

Voting on New Mediating Proposal “the Right Decision”

By Ragnar Tómas

Samningar Verkföll Sátti
Photo: Golli. Chairperson of Efling Union, Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir .

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, Chair of the Efling union, believes that putting the state mediator’s new proposal to a vote was “the right decision.” Sólveig told Vísir that claiming that any kind of victory had been achieved was preposterous, given that  SA had been unwilling to negotiate directly with Efling.

Lockouts and strikes postponed

After temporarily-appointed state mediator Ástráður Haraldsson announced this morning that Efling and SA had agreed to vote on a new mediating proposal – and that all ongoing and impending strikes and lockouts would be postponed – Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, the Chair of the Efling union, shared her reaction to the proposal with the media.

In an interview with Vísir, Sólveig stated that she was unwilling to say whether or not she recommended that Efling members vote in favour of the new proposal – but that it was, nevertheless, “the right decision to hold a vote;” the impending lockout and wage improvements for maids and truck drivers were among the reasons why Efling’s negotiating committee had agreed to vote on the proposal.

“This is a legally presented media proposal. It is, of course, clear that SA does not intend, and will not sign a collective agreement with Efling,” Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir commented.

Asked what it was in the mediator’s proposal that convinced Efling’s negotiating committee to put it to a vote, Sólveig Anna referred to the fact, among other things, that hotel maids and Samskip drivers would be moved up a pay bracket; that an agreement had been reached with the employers of striking drivers regarding a bonus for transporting hazardous material; and that full retroactivity of the wage agreement had been negotiated (active from November of last year).

“Being presented with this legal mediation proposal, given that there was this devastating lockout on the horizon, I – as the chair of this association, and as the chair of the negotiating committee – […] felt that, in a conversation with the committee, that this was something on which our members could vote. And I believe it is the right decision,” Sólveig Anna told Vísir.

Up to Efling members to decide

Sólveig Anna also told Vísir that although she was unwilling to say, as previously noted, whether she would recommend that Efling members vote on the proposal, she would do her job: “Of course, I will do what I have to do as Efling Chair, and as the chair of the negotiating committee, which is to clarify what has happened – to clearly explain the content of the proposal, alongside anything else that was discussed yesterday. It is then up to the members themselves to decide how they vote,” Sólveig Anna explained.

Sólveig was likewise unwilling to speculate whether the new proposal would serve to end the wage dispute; if she had signed a collective agreement that she and the negotiating committee had struck, and with which they were happy, then she would have certainly encouraged members to vote in favour of it.

“There are simply different rules to the game when it comes to a mediating proposal, but I will, as I’ve stated, do my job,” Sólveig Anna observed.

Strikers “the real heroes” of the labour movement

Sólveig Anna reiterated her displeasure with the fact that SA had refused to enter into a collective agreement with Efling. Labour improvements had been made for staff, including hotel maids and drivers, who had been willing to strike. However, Sólveig noted, no one could claim that any kind of victory had been achieved, given that it had proved impossible to reach a collective agreement – and that a mediation proposal had been the only way forward.

Efling had, however, won certain smaller victories when it came to the dispute: the organisational and fighting power of the union was obvious to everyone: “These are the real heroes of the Icelandic labour struggle: low-wage workers who show that they know what they’re worth,” Sólveig Anna remarked.

Sólveig also considered the fact that Efling had not been forced to hand over its electoral roll (i.e. membership registry) to the Office of the State Mediator, in order to vote on Aðalsteinn Leifsson’s initial mediation proposal – which Sólveig Anna described as “illegal” – as a victory.

Given the state of the dispute, Efling’s negotiating committee believed that it was impossible to continue. SA was “ready to do everything in its power” to avoid entering into a collective agreement with Efling and “deprive the company of its independent bargaining rights.”

“It would be absurd for anyone to perceive that as a victory,” she stated.

A warning for the future

Finally, Sólveig Anna warned the members of the labour market not to act against Efling in the future:

“I truly hope that those parties within the Icelandic labour market who have lobbied for the union to be deprived of its independent bargaining rights will think twice before doing it again,” said Sólveig Anna, who described Efling as “the most powerful labour union in the country.”

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