Rights of Fishermen Regularly Violated, According to Chairperson of Icelandic Seamen’s Association

fishing in Iceland

In a recent report by RÚV, Bergur Þorkelsson, chairperson of the Icelandic Seamen’s Association, states that the rights of seamen are regularly violated.

By law, seamen are allowed up to two months’ of wages if they fall ill or injured during their employment period. However, according to Bergur, “traditional” expectations in the fishing industry mean that it is often difficult for seamen to actually take the leave they are entitled to.

This was recently illustrated by the case of a seaman who lost his job after taking a sick leave, which he was legally entitled to, for mental health reasons.

Read more: Never Fewer Accidents at Sea

According to Bergur, the culture of the fishing industry in Iceland means that seamen are often stigmatized for taking their sick leave. In an industry that has traditionally been very dangerous, this is especially problematic, as seamen feeling able to take off when they are unwell is important for both the safety of the individual and crew. “This is a problem,” Bergur stated to RÚV. “Seamen are all on their own, and need to be tough guys who don’t bother anyone about anything. We get cases like this often. I haven’t seen anything about mental illness until this case, but it’s common for seamen to avoid applying for benefits for fear of losing their jobs.”

The violation of the legal rights of seamen is further complicated by the nature of their employment contracts. Because work in the fishing industry is seasonal, a seaman may not be directly let go because of illness. Instead, he may simply not be re-hired for the next season. This grey area allows fishing companies the ability to deny that they may be discriminating against seamen who are simply making use of their legal rights.

Many aspects of the Icelandic fishing industry are still very traditional. This is a problem, states Bergur, because in many cases, work contracts can be informal and verbal. Fishing companies may verbally promise fishermen to be re-hired, but when they spend some time ashore, they show up to work after several weeks and find they’ve been let go. In these cases, because the seaman are not even aware of their termination, they have not had the opportunity to look for employment elsewhere, which can severely undermine their job security.

 

Inflation Response Measures Target Renters, Pensioners, and Families

Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson

Renters, pensioners, and families with children are the target groups of government measures intended to reduce the impact of inflation on the most vulnerable demographics. The government approved the measures at a cabinet meeting this morning. They include raising social security benefits, income-related child benefits, and housing benefits.

Housing benefits raised by 10%

Almost half of households on the rental market receive housing benefits, according to estimates from the Housing and Construction Authority. Around 70% of them have index-linked leases. Housing benefits will be increased by 10% from June 1, and the income limit for receiving housing benefits will be raised by 3%. The cost of rent has doubled in Iceland over the past decade.

Additional ISK 20,000 per child

Families receiving income-related child benefits will receive an additional ISK 20,000 per child [$153; €145], to be paid out by the end of June. The child benefit system is being reviewed “with the aim of addressing various shortcomings in the system,” in order to better achieve the objectives of reducing child poverty and supporting parents, especially in lower income brackets. From June 1, disability benefits and benefits for old-age pensioners will be increased by 3%.

Inflation continues to climb

Inflation measured 7.2% in Iceland last month. The Central Bank instituted a sharp 1% hike in interest rates in response. Íslandsbanki analysts have predicted that inflation will continue to rise in Iceland, peaking in June at 7.7%.

The notice concludes by stating that the government will “focus on tight fiscal policy to support the Centra Bank’s monetary policy.”

Arion Bank to Ensure 80% of Staff Salaries During Parental Leave

Bicycle

Arion Bank has announced that it will guarantee employees up to 80% of their wages during parental leave. The bank promises to pay employees with salaries upwards of 600,000 ISK per month (€4,015 / $4,643) – which is the salary cap, before taxes, of the Parental-Leave Benefit Fund – an additional benefit so that they can take home close to 80% of their regular wages.

Encouraged to make full use of their parental leave

In a statement published on the bank’s website on Wednesday, Arion Bank declared that it would henceforth guarantee employees up to 80% of their wages during parental leave. The benefit will be granted in addition to payments from the Parental-Leave Benefit Fund and other compensation negotiated through collective-wage agreements. The statement further encouraged employees to make full use of their right to parental leave.

The salaries of bank employees vary. As reported by Kjarninn, the monthly wages of individuals employed as consultants and brokers, including those working for Arion Bank, exceeded ISK 1.7 million (€11,377 / $13,158) last year. According to the bank’s new parental-compensation package, the average Arion broker would earn approximately ISK 1,360,000 (€9,103 / $10,528) during up to six months of parental leave, or ISK 760,000 (€5,087 / $5,882) more than the expected payment from the Parental-Leave Benefit Fund.

Employees with salaries of ISK 1 million (€6,693 / $7,740) a month receive an additional ISK 200,000 (€1,339 / $1,547) and employees earning ISK 800,000 (€5,355 / $6,192) receive an additional ISK 40,000 (€268 / $310).

Hope to ensure equality of wages in the future

The parental-leave package forms a part of Arion Bank’s endeavour toward gender equality. “The average wages of men, whether in Arion Bank or in society at large, exceed those of women,” the statement from the bank reads – “and fathers are less likely to use their parental leaves than mothers.”

“Guaranteeing employees 80% of their wages during parental leave, regardless of gender or position,” the statement continues, “makes it easier for them to take time off. In this way, this initiative aims to encourage more fathers to make use of their rights. In the future, this step may prove beneficial in ensuring equality of wages between men and women, on the one hand, and increasing the number of women in managerial positions and other positions, on the other hand. Today, women form 44% of the bank’s management.”

The statement ends with a quote from Director Benedikt Gíslason: “We hope to make the bank a more desirable place of employment in the eyes of young and talented people.”