The Efling labour union spent close to ISK 130 million [$1.04 million; € 909,063] on personnel-related matters during Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir’s four-year tenure as chairperson, RÚV reports. Forty out of 50 of the union’s employees (80%) resigned from their positions during the same timeframe.
These were among the findings summarized in a new report that the news agency prepared in collaboration with the union, at the request of board member Guðmundur Baldursson. Guðmundur is running to be the next chairperson of Efling, as is current vice-chair Ólöf Helga Adolfsdóttir, and Sólveig Anna, who resubmitted her candidacy for the position in late January.
According to the report, from 2018, when Sólveig Anna started as chair, to 2021, when she resigned following accusations of workplace bullying, Efling paid nearly ISK 14 million [$112,089; €97,899] in severance agreements. Around ISK 66 million [$528,422; € 461,524] was paid during departing employee’s notice periods, during which time they are not required to work. The report also shows that Efling spent ISK 48 million [$384,307; € 335,654] on long-term illness during the same timeframe.
All total, this comes to ISK 128 million [$1.02 million; € 895,077]. This figure does not account for additional costs related to services provided by psychologists and other specialists.
‘Sólveig Anna was in a position to change these things’
The day after the findings of the abovementioned report came out, an independent audit on the union’s workplace culture was made public. The audit was conducted by psychology and counselling centre Líf og sál in November and December 2021 and showed evidence that bullying and misogyny were endemic to the union’s workplace culture. The findings were based on interviews with all of the union’s employees.
Efling CEO Linda Dröfn Gunnarsdóttir said she was not surprised by the findings—the audit simply confirmed the experience that many of spoken of in the union’s workplace before.
Sólveig Anna declined to be interviewed on either report, although she received several requests from RÚV to comment. In a post on her Facebook page, however, she did comment that staffing costs in the Efling office were high and that when she started as chair, she was surprised by the perks that were afforded union office employees. She said high-wage employees had turned the union movement into a self-serving machine, with perks like free catered meals on a daily basis, costly trips abroad, and frequent and expensive gatherings during working hours.
Ólöf Helga objected to Sólveig Anna’s characterization of workplace excess in the union office saying she hadn’t observed any of the things named by the former chair and, moreover, that if Sólveig Anna had thought there was something self-serving about the way the union office was being run, she could have done something about it. “I think Sólveig Anna was in a position to change these things during the four years she was the chairperson of Efling, if she was so unhappy with them.”
Election next week will decide next chairperson and board
Efling is the second largest union in Iceland, with about 27,000 members working in public service, healthcare, and other industries. Sólveig Anna became Efling’s chair in 2018 and led wage negotiations and strikes among City of Reykjavík employees and hotel workers calling for better wages and working conditions for low earners. More than half of Efling’s members are of foreign origin. (Agnieszka Ewa Ziółkowska, the current, interim chairperson is, in fact, the union’s first chair of foreign origin.)
Sólveig Anna has denied the allegations made against her, and after her resignation, union members stated, in another letter to the media, that what they had wanted was solutions–not resignations. According to RÚV, however, the news agency has sources within the union that say that some employees are worried about Sólveig Anna’s possible re-election as chair.
The Efling election, which will also decide the union’s board, will take place this coming week, from February 9 – 15.