Talks Remain at a Standstill Following Today’s Meeting

wage negotiations

The meeting of the negotiation committees of BSRB and the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities (SÍS) at the state mediator’s offices concluded at noon without an agreement. No new meeting has been called, RÚV reports.

2,500 BSRB members on strike

On May 15, BSRB, Iceland’s largest federation of public sector unions, comprising 19 labour unions with some 23,000 members, began strike action as part of its ongoing negotiations with the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities (SÍS).

BSRB’s strike action has gradually ramped up with 2,500 members going on indefinite strike yesterday. As noted in a press release on BSRB’s website, the current strike affects about 150 workplaces in 29 municipalities and includes “staff in kindergartens, swimming pools, sports facilities, service centres, town offices, utility houses, and harbours.”

As noted by RÚV, both parties had stood firm before today’s meeting; BSRB is demanding a lump sum payment of ISK 128,000 ($904 / €847) to correct the disparity in the salaries of its members compared to other workers who are employed to do the same job. The Chair of the SÍS negotiating committee stated that the demand was unfounded.

In an interview with RÚV prior to the meeting, Sonja Ýr Þorbergsdóttir, Chair of BSRB, stated that the federation would not budge from its lump-sum demand: “The message is very clear. We do not have the authority to finalise collective agreements unless there is a guaranteed lump sum payment of ISK 128,000 in order to correct the discrepancy in the wages of our workers compared to people who are employed to do the same jobs … it is simply unacceptable for people to do the same jobs and be paid less. They are doing exactly the same tasks every day, and our people are tired of this inequality.”

Today’s negotiations, held at the offices of the state mediator, began at 10 AM and concluded at just before noon without an agreement being reached.

Iceland’s Free Emissions Allowances Extended Until 2026

Ursula von der Leyen

At a press conference yesterday, PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced that the European Union and the Icelandic government had reached a preliminary agreement on Iceland’s emissions; Iceland will continue to receive free emissions allowances up to and including the year 2026, Vísir reports.

New and tougher emissions regulation

The Icelandic authorities have sought exemptions from new and tougher European regulations (the so-called “Fit for 55” package, in reference to the bloc’s new climate target of a 55% emissions reduction by 2030.) intended to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases from air transport. An agreement was reached on this legislation within the EU last December and is due to enter into force at the end of next year. It will then subsequently be included in the EEA Agreement.

As noted by Vísir, the rules include, among other things, changes to the European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), which would now require airlines to pay for emission allowances in a progressive measure (airlines have, until now, received them mostly for free). “The EU’s intention is that free emission allowances for airlines will decrease by a quarter by 2024 and by half by 2025. They will be completely eliminated after 2026,” Vísir notes.

The Icelandic government has been open about its belief that the rules harm the competitive position of Icelandic airlines and fail to take into account Iceland’s geographical location, which makes its citizens more dependent on air transport than other residents of the mainland.

Subject to approval

Prior to the Council of Europe summit yesterday, Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir met bilaterally with President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. At a press conference after their meeting, both leaders stated that a special solution to Iceland’s emissions allowances had been reached, which was compatible with the EU’s goals for the aviation sector.

Von der Leyen stated that the Icelandic government would be invited to receive free emissions allowances that they can distribute to airlines in both 2025 and 2026, noting that it was important that the country could give the allowances to all airlines in order to ensure fairness.

“I am pleased that we have found a solution that fits your circumstances and is consistent with our integrity in relation to the single market. First and foremost, this agreement also respects our long-term climate protection goals,” Von der Leyen remarked.

“The EU and Ursula have shown a great understanding for our views and our geographical situation. So our common view is that a solution to this should take into account Iceland’s specific geographical situation but also address the fact that green solutions in aviation have not emerged. But I would like to make it completely clear that Iceland wants to contribute to the common goal of reducing emissions.”

As noted by Vísir, the agreement is subject to the approval of the member states of the European Union, the Icelandic government, and Parliament.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir told in March that the proposed EU legislation on aviation allowances was Iceland’s biggest interest since the EEA Agreement’s incorporation. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has embarked on an unprecedented effort to try to influence EU legislation,” the outlet reported.

Government Signs Agreement to Bolster Elite Sports in Iceland

Elite sports agreement

This weekend, the government signed an agreement with the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland (ÍSÍ) on the formulation of policy concerning elite sports. Former Olympian and coach Vésteinn Hafsteinsson has been hired to oversee the project.

Towards an improved environment for elite athletes

During a press conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, last Saturday, January 21, the Ministry of Education and Children’s Affairs and the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland signed an agreement on the formulation of policy concerning elite sports in Iceland. As part of the agreement, Vésteinn Hafsteinsson – former Olympic athlete and coach – will relocate to Iceland to collaborate with the government to formulate measures on how best to improve the status and rights of elite athletes in Iceland.

Minister Ásmundur Einar Daðason has also appointed a special working group comprised of interested parties to collaborate on the project, which Vésteinn Hafsteinsson will lead. The aim is to create “the best possible framework for elite sports in Iceland” and to put “high-performance athletes on equal footing with their competitors on an international level.”

Highly experienced athlete and coach

The government’s press release notes that Vésteinn, as a coach and former top-ranked discus thrower, is “familiar with the conditions required to shape and sustain elite athletic performance.” Last year, Vésteinn was chosen Coach of the Year in Sweden, having helped Swedish discus throwers Daniel Stahl and Simon Pettersson secure gold and silver medals respectively at the Tokyo Olympics. Vésteinn has been involved in a wide variety of sports over the years, both in Iceland and abroad, and “knows the environment and the athletes well.”

Vésteinn has been hired for the next five years to formulate policy changes with the government and, in the future, follow up on the implementation of this policy in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Children’s Affairs and ÍSÍ. Vésteinn will also assume the role of ÍSÍ’s Performance Manager where he will, among other things, supervise ÍSÍ’s Achievement Strategy (Afreksstefnu) and aid Icelandic competitors in preparation for the Olympics.

“It is very pleasing to cooperate with Vésteinn on this important project,” Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Minister of Education and Children’s Affairs, stated at the press conference. “Elite athletes are role models. They inspire and motivate us. They prove that we can achieve excellent results, despite our smallness. This initiative will serve to strengthen sports across the board, while at the same time stimulating recreation and solidarity. Our top athletes do not enjoy the same support as their foreign counterparts. Nor do they have access to the same facilities. They also do not enjoy the same civil liberties as the rest of us. This needs to be fixed. With a new national stadium, we improve our facilities. And now begins a review of our entire framework for elite sports in Iceland as stipulated in the government agreement.”

As noted on the government’s website, the aim of the work, going forward, is to review and propose changes to the framework, legislation, and other aspects deemed necessary to provide support for elite athletes in Iceland. The working group is tasked with examining, in particular, the cost of participation in national-team activities for competitors and their families, as well as examining the civil liberties of accomplished athletes within the state’s different social support systems.

Nína Tryggvadóttir Museum Founded After Generous Donation

Nína Tryggvadóttir

The Mayor of Reykjavík Dagur B. Eggertsson and Una Dóra Copley – daughter of artist Nína Tryggvadóttir – have signed an agreement for the establishment of the Nína Tryggvadóttir Art Museum. It will be the first art museum dedicated to a woman artist in Reykjavík.

Over a thousand pieces donated

For the past months, work has been done to finalize contracts, register museum assets, compose a charter, and to settle inheritance issues in preparation for the founding of the Nína Tryggvadóttir Art Museum. Last Thursday, Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson, on behalf of the City of Reykjavík, and Una Dóra Copley, Nína Tryggvadóttir’s only daughter, signed a formal agreement at the Höfði House in Reykjavík. The museum will be housed in the eastern part of Hafnarhúsið. As the western half of the building houses the Reykjavík Art Museum, the entire building will now be dedicated to the arts.

The agreement provides that Una Dóra Copley will donate over a thousand works of art by Nína Tryggvadóttir that reflect the artist’s entire career. The art in question includes paintings, drawings, glass art, and watercolours. Additionally, Una Dóra will bequeath real estate in Manhattan and Reykjavík to the City of Reykjavík, along with other works of art, a library, and more.

A brief history of Nína Tryggvadóttir

Nína Tryggvadóttir (1913-1968) was known primarily as a painter, although she also composed and illustrated children’s books. She was born on March 16, 1913 in Seyðisfjörður and died on June 18, 1968. As a young artist, she studied drawing under the tutelage Ásgrímur Jónsson. Alongside her studies at the Reykjavík Women’s Gymnasium, Nína studied art at the Academy of Finnur Jónsson and Jóhann Briem. She later studied painting at Det Kongelige Akadmi for de Skønne Kunsten in Copenhagen. Nína lived in Paris, London, and New York but always maintained a close connection to Iceland, where she held many private exhibitions. She was an active member of the abstract expressionist movement in New York, and her art can be found in museums and private collections around the world.

Reykjavík announces design competition

On Thursday, the City Board of Reykjavík announced that it would call for ideas and perspectives on a design competition to renovate Hafnarhús to house the Nína Tryggvadóttir Art Museum, to expand the premises of the Reykjavík Art Museum, and to create space within the building to be dedicated to painting and other art-related activity. The City will call for diverse voices ranging from artists; residents, of all ages; the Reykjavík Art Museum; sponsors of the Nína Tryggvadóttir Art Museum; the Erró Museum; the Iceland University of the Arts; the Harpa Conference Hall; and other interested parties.