Union Leaders Sharply Criticise Minister's Remarks about Worker Demands Skip to content
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Photo: Golli. Chairperson of Efling Union, Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir .

Union Leaders Sharply Criticise Minister’s Remarks about Worker Demands

Union leaders responded swiftly to Minister of Foreign Affairs Bjarni Benediktsson, following statements made by him that they need to temper their demands due to the amount of money that may be paid out to Grindavík residents.

Currently, a broad coalition of labour unions are in negotiations with the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA). The subjects of these talks range from flat króna-amount pay rises to how many years the next collective bargaining agreement should cover; management is hoping for longer term contracts, while unions are aiming for shorter term.

These talks have been difficult and slow-going, but have not yet reached the point where the matter would be referred to the State Conciliation and Mediation Officer.

Have to see “the big picture”

Speaking about the negotiations on the roundtable discussion show Silfrið, Bjarni Benediktsson cautioned that labour unions should consider the amount of money the state intends to pay out to Grindavík residents when negotiating with management.

“When the state, and all of us, take on such a big project as the Grindavík matter, it of course has an effect on our ability to stretch ourselves towards the demands of others, who are at the same time asking us to do something significant,” he said.

“I think we should insist that people consider the big picture,” he added. “It would be unwise of all parties involved to remove themselves from the larger context that we are all a part of.”

“Tasteless” to use Grindavík

Ragnar Þór Ingólfsson, director of the labour union VR, told RÚV that these remarks did not come as a surprise, but also does not have a good impact on the ongoing labour negotiations.

He added that the amount of money workers are asking for, when compared to the amount of money the state paid out to companies early in the pandemic and after the 2008 financial collapse, as well as how much money is in the disaster fund, come out to “small change”, adding that it was “very tasteless and disgusting to use the situation in Grindavík in order to work against the necessary and important goals that we have laid out in these negotiations.”

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir (shown above), the director of the labour union Efling, told Vísir that they are very much aware of the situation in Grindavík, and support the residents getting everything they need. At the same time, she said, these negotiations will directly affect some 115,000 people, or about 73% of the labour market. As such, the government cannot just push the matter aside.

Negotiations between these labour unions and management are still ongoing.

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