Members of the Icelandic Confederation of Enterprise (SA) have approved a lockout of some 20,000 workers set to begin on March 2 at noon, RÚV reports. CEO of SA Halldór Benjamín Þorbergsson has called it a “last resort” to force the conclusion of a collective agreement with Efling Union. Efling Chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir says SA is using a lockout to force the government to step into the conflict.
Vast majority vote in favour of lockout
Nearly 88% of companies in SA voted on the lockout, with 94% voting in favour. During the lockout, Efling workers would not be permitted to show up to their employment. As such, they would not receive wages, accrue leave, or receive pension payments. Exceptions would be granted for workers in healthcare and other essential jobs, according to SA. Efling is Iceland’s second-largest union and the lockout would greatly impact the entire Icelandic economy.
In a press conference yesterday, Halldór Benjamín stated that the lockout was a response to Efling workers’ ongoing strikes, which led several hotels to temporarily close their doors. While those strikes are ongoing, Efling has postponed further strikes scheduled to begin on February 28, of additional workers in security companies, cleaning companies, and hotels.
Lockout is an attempt to involve government, Sólveig says
“This play is aimed at the government,” Efling Chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir told RÚV when asked about the lockout. “Because Halldór Benjamín cannot make a collective agreement with Efling, he’s is waiting for the government to come and release him from the predicament he’s gotten into, and of course, we will wait and see if that happens.” Both Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Labour Minister Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson have stated it is in SA and Efling’s hands to reach an agreement.
When asked whether the dispute could be resolved without government intervention, Sólveig answered: “I believe at this point in time that nothing is more obvious than the fact that SA does not intend and does not want to enter into a collective agreement with Efling.”
The pending lockout could leave Efling members in a tight spot as the union’s leaders appear to disagree on whether to make payouts to affected workers.