State mediator Aðalsteinn Leifsson presented his mediation proposal in the wage dispute between Efling and SA at a press conference yesterday. The proposal met with criticism from both SA and the Efling Union. The state mediator believes that he is well within his legal rights.
A controversial step, setting a questionable precedent
Yesterday, State mediator Aðalsteinn Leifsson presented a special mediating proposal (i.e. miðlunartillaga) to resolve the dispute between the Efling Union and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA). Negotiations between the two parties have devolved into a sort of Gordian knot, with the last meeting between Efling and SA lasting only a minute. The proposal means that members of the Efling union will have to vote on the same contract previously agreed upon by other unions.
Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, Chair of Efling, told RÚV yesterday that she believed the state mediator had broken the law with his proposal: he had not consulted with Efling. Halldór Benjamín Þorbergsson, Director of SA, struck a similar note, arguing that it was “the right of the disputing parties” to bring the case to a conclusion.
State Mediator defends his proposal
Following the response from Efling and SA, Aðalsteinn sent out a press release yesterday in which he rejected any claims about the illegality of the proposal. A mediating proposal was one of the resources available to the state mediator to try to ensure peace in the labour market.
“Given the state of the dispute between SA and Efling, it was my assessment, the office’s assessment, that it was inevitable to try this remedy.”
Aðalsteinn admitted that the labour legislation imposes the duty on the state mediator to consult with the parties to a wage dispute before submitting such a proposal: this applies to the content of the proposal and the procedure for voting.
“And that’s why I called representatives of both parties to a meeting with me today for this purpose. I discussed it with them before the proposal was made public. This obligation to consult the parties, however, does not imply that they have the right to intervene or veto the proposal.”
As noted by RÚV, Aðalsteinn denies that the way in which the proposal was presented was illegal in any way. When asked if the parties to a dispute should be familiar with the content of the legislation, he replied that the law was very clear as regards the authorisation of a mediating proposal. “It is also very clear in the labour legislation that when a mediation proposal has been submitted, a vote must take place.”
The proposal a “monstrosity”
Sólveig Anna went on to describe the proposal as a “monstrosity” (i.e. óskapnaður) that failed to mediate anything. Efling’s point of view had not been taken into account: the state mediator was simply imposing SA’s offer on the Efling Union.
Aðalsteinn replied that this was far from the case. He was not proposing an agreement from SA but rather one that the Federation of General and Special workers in Iceland (SGS) had negotiated with SA.
“After very difficult and demanding wage negotiations – where an agreement was struck. This agreement has since been approved by an overwhelming majority of votes in all of the eighteen unions within SGS. It should also be noted that this agreement includes the highest proportional increases that have been settled in this round of wage negotiations, within the general labour market, over the past weeks and months.”
Efling yet to submit its membership list
At the time of writing, the Efling union had not submitted its membership list to the state mediator; the deadline was 8 PM yesterday. As noted by RÚV, Efling is thereby shirking its statutory duty, given that the office of the state mediator has the right to receive the membership list.
Elísabet S. Ólafsdóttir, Chief of Staff at the State Mediator’ office, told RÚV yesterday that the office would have to consider its next steps: “At this stage, we can send Efling another notice. If the notice proves ineffective, it may eventually be necessary to obtain a ruling from the district court to force delivery.”
The proposal will be put to a vote by the members of Efling and voting will begin at 12 noon on Saturday and continue until 5 PM on Tuesday.
This article will be updated