The recession in construction in Iceland has been more severe than expected for companies in this industry. Many immigrant workers are expected to leave the country because of it; construction work in Iceland has largely been undertaken with the aid of foreign labor.
“We have heard it in work places that the number of foreigners is dropping. We have known it for some time that there has been movement among them. For a long time new workers always came along, but I find it likely that it has come to an end,” Thorbjörn Gudmundsson at Samidn, a federation of labor union for construction workers, told Morgunbladid.
“I have also heard, without being able to confirm it, that companies want to try and switch over to Icelandic workers,” Gudmundsson said, adding that although such a change can be positive, it is of vital importance that foreign laborers can leave their jobs under regular procedure and that their rights are protected.
Gudmundsson said that although the recession in construction has been more severe than companies in this industry had expected, they knew it was coming. “Companies have been looking towards terminating employment contracts, but that takes a full three months. I’m sure […] that people want to speed these procedures up because projects they thought they had only two weeks ago are being canceled.”
Gudmundsson concluded by saying that it is important that those who have funds, like the state and municipalities, think ahead, prioritizing operations in construction and undertaking projects with job-creation in mind.
On Wednesday, the Polish Consul to Iceland Michal Sikorski held a well-attended meeting where Polish immigrants in Iceland were advised, among other things, how to do up their taxes so they can leave the country legally, Morgunbladid reports.
According to Sikorski, around 150 of the 300 attendees had already decided to move away from Iceland. Many of those had lost their jobs or were about to. The majority of the remaining attendees said they worried that they would also be left unemployed.
Poles are the largest group of immigrants in Iceland.