Negotiators Reach Temporary Agreement, Await Government Input

Anna Sólveig Jónsdóttir Efling Union

The three-day hotel workers’ and bus drivers’ strike scheduled to start at midnight has been called off, RÚV reports. Several unions and the Icelandic Confederation of Enterprise (SA) have signed a declaration of intent which outlines the terms of agreement for workers’ contracts valid until November 1, 2022. Union leaders say it’s now up to the government whether the agreement is finalised – or negotiations return to the drawing board.

Taxes and housing are key factors

“We agreed on a framework for a potential contract,” stated Ragnar Þór Ingólfsson, chairperson of VR Union, “and it entails the government being part of the solution,” adding that negotiators would most likely meet with government representatives this morning. Though the details of the agreement have not been made public, Ragnar Þór says it could be acceptable for unions, the business community, and the government if all goes well.

Ragnar confirms that the government’s contribution concerns taxation and housing issues. Efling chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir says her union has emphasised tax cuts for the lowest earners. “I hope the message has come across clearly and that we will receive the news today that that it will be so,” she stated, adding “I hope the government takes on the great responsibility they truly bear now.”

Rush hour strikes ongoing

Although a three-day hotel workers’ and bus drivers’ strike scheduled to start at midnight has been called off, bus drivers’ rush hour strikes took place this morning between 7.00-9.00am. Efling CEO Viðar Þorsteinsson stated that the union would be meeting with representatives of Strætó this morning.

Two-Day Hotel Worker and Bus Driver Strikes Called Off

trade union iceland

The planned strike of hotel workers and bus drivers who are members of the Efling and VR unions that was planned to begin at midnight on March 28 and end at 11:59 PM on March 29 has been called off, RÚV reports. While multiple short-term strikes are still planned to go forward in the next week, the cancellation of this two-day action does signal that some progress has finally been made in negotiations between six labour unions, including Efling and VR, and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA), Iceland’s employer federation.

The decision to call off the strikes was made at a five-hour negotiation meeting between SA and the unions that was held on Wednesday afternoon, mere hours before the strike was supposed to go into effect. It was the sixteenth such negotiation meeting and had, in fact, been postponed for the last two days because union chairs said that uncertainty with WOW air’s situation would impact negotiations. SA had requested that the forthcoming strike action be postponed in light of the ongoing WOW air negotiations, but the unions rejected this request.

The strike was cancelled “…in light of a new basis for talks, which has now been presented on behalf of the employers’ association, SA,” wrote Efling in a statement on its website. The exact details of the “new basis” was not specified, but Efling congratulated its members on “the great work that has been put into the planning and execution of the strikes so far, which have now resulted in a limited but significant success.”

“Whether it succeeds or not, we’re going to try to make it work in the next days and over the weekend,” remarked Ragnar Þór Ingólfsson, the chair of VR.

Both Ragnar Þór and Efling chair Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir noted that this cancellation does not signal the end of negotiations by any means—it’s simply a step in the right direction. “I must express my feeling that we wouldn’t have made it here except for the fact that the strike weapon is a sharp one and it stings,” said Sólveig Anna.

The next set of 24-hour strikes is scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday next week. The city buses run by Kynnisferðir will also start their rush-hour strikes on Monday.

 

Strikes Will Affect Bus Routes in April

Efling and VR Unions’ strikes will affect several public bus routes in the capital area in April, RÚV reports. The strikes will not affect service for people with disabilities.

Capital area buses

The planned strikes will affect bus routes 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 24, 28, 35, and 36 in the capital area. Other Strætó routes in the capital area are not staffed by members of the unions and will therefore remain unaffected by the strike.

Between April 1 and May 1, there will be no bus service on the aforementioned routes between 7.00am and 9.00am or 4.00pm and 6.00pm, except on Saturdays and Sundays.

Hotels and bus companies

Efling members working at hotels and tour bus companies will strike on the following dates from midnight to midnight. Efling’s website features a full list of hotels affected by the strikes. The only public bus route affected by the following strikes is route 89 between Sandgerði, Garður, and Reykjanesbær.

March 22 (1 day)

March 28-29 (2 day)

April 3-5 (3 day)

April 9-11 (3 day)

April 15-17 (3 day)

April 23-25 (3 day)

May 1, International Workers’ Day, will mark the start of a general strike, to continue until a contract agreement is reached or the strike is called off.

Labour Court Rules Union’s Planned ‘Micro Strikes’ Illegal

The Icelandic Labour Court has ruled that four of the seven ‘micro’ strike actions that the Efling labour union intended to implement during upcoming bus driver strike are illegal, Vísir reports.

According to an announcement on the Strætó website, the rejected strike actions include drivers not taking or monitoring passenger fare and drivers stopping buses for five minutes at 4:00 pm every day between March 23 – 29. As of time of writing, the court’s full judgement had not been published.

“I’ve said that Efling’s particular goal was to try and test the limits of labour law and that SA [the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise] would pursue legal action against all attempts to defy it,” remarked Halldór Benjamín Þorbergsson, SA’s director general. “It’s gratifying that that the verdict confirms it—that [the micro strikes] are illegal.”

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir’s interpretation of the judgement was more flexible; she said that it did not deem micro strike actions illegal in and of themselves and also maintained that it did not preclude the possibility of Efling implementing micro strike actions in the future. She was, nevertheless, surprised by the ruling.

“It’s a shame that our members do not get to make full use of their right to strike,” Viðar Þorsteinsson, executive director of Efling, was quoted saying in a statement published on the union website. “These actions are moderate and are meant to be incremental in nature, as opposed to the effect being felt fully immediately. But we will of course abide by this decision and learn from it.”

Even as the micro strike actions have been ruled illegal, Efling will still proceed with its “conventional strikes.” The first of these is a 24-hour strike on March 22, during which time, “there will be no work by Efling members in hotels and bus companies from midnight to midnight.” After that, there are a series of two to three-day strikes planned until May 1st, when Efling members in the bus and hotel industries would go on strike indefinitely.

In addition, from April 1 – May 1, Strætó drivers who are also employed by the tour company Almenningsvagnar Kynnisferða will not drive on weekdays from 7:00 – 9:00 am and 4:00 – 6:00 pm. This work stoppage will impact the 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 24, 28, 35 and 36 bus routes. There may be minor impact on the 11, 13, 22, 23, 31, 33, 34, 43 and 44 routes. None of the drivers for the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 18 routes are in Efling, therefore, these routes will not be affected by the aforementioned strike actions.

Strike Expected to Interrupt Bus System

The planned strike operations of unions VR and Efling will affect the Strætó bus system in the capital area. Strætó released a statement today on the matter.

The interruptions and delays will take place in the week of March 23-29, as bus drivers will stop their buses for five minutes daily. Public transport users should expect a significant interruption to the bus system if negotiations do not conclude with a contract before that time. The strike will also affect driving services for disabled individuals as well as bus routes outside the capital area.

Capital area interruptions

The planned strike operations will affect the following routes in the capital area: 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 24, 28, 35, and 36. The drivers on these routes drive on behalf of Kynnisferðir and are therefore part of Efling union.

Some interruptions will be experienced in the following routes: 11, 13, 22, 23, 31, 33, 34, 43, and 44. A part of the drivers, on these routes, drive on behalf of Hagvagnar and some of them are Efling members. Strætó has announced that these routes will experience some delays, but only on single trips rather than all of the routes at once.

The strikes will not affect the following routes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 18.

Driving for disabled individuals

Around a quarter of the 90 drivers who drive disabled individuals, on behalf of Strætó, so Strætó expects significant interruptions to those services.

The following routes outside the capital area will be affected: 

South Iceland: 51, 52, 72, 73, 75

West – and North Iceland: 57

Reykjanes peninsula: 55

Series of Workers’ Strikes Looming

hotel workers strike Reykjavík

Dozens of strike actions among bus drivers, hotel workers, and other workers in tourism are on the horizon in the Reykjavík capital area. Bus drivers voted 92% in favour of strike measures last weekend. Led by Efling Union, six separate strikes lasting 1-3 days are planned over the next several weeks, as well as seven work-to-rule measures affecting workers in the aforementioned industries. A general strike will begin on May 1 unless labour unions and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) reach an agreement first.

Upcoming strikes

Efling Union has two types of strikes planned: traditional work stoppages and work restrictions. Work stoppages will take place from midnight to midnight on the following days:

March 22 (1 day)

March 28-29 (2 days)

April 3-5 (3 days)

April 9-11 (3 days)

April 15-17 (3 days)

April 23-25 (3 days)

May 1 (until the strike is called off)

The following work restrictions apply to bus drivers:

March 18 through April 30: Work to rule strike

March 23 through April 30: No checking of tickets or counting of passengers

April 6 through April 30: No work before noon

For hotel workers, the following restrictions apply:

March 18 through April 30: Work to rule strike

March 23 through April 30: No cleaning of toilets or common areas

March 30 through April 30: No cleaning of rooms where guests have not checked out and no serving of breakfast

April 26 through April 30: No laundry service

Efling provides a list of hotels affected by the strike actions on their website.

SA takes Efling to court again

SA plans to take Efling Union to the Labour Court over the proposed strike actions. The confederation says the legality of the strikes is questionable, particularly in the case of work restrictions. “A strike is about not showing up to work and not receiving wages. [In Efling’s planned work restrictions] you have to show up to work, not do your whole job, and still receive wages. This is a sharp and poorly defensible understanding of the application and development of traditional strike rights.”

Efling’s executive director Viðar Þorsteinnson says the union had already reduced their demands before negotiations fell apart. “Of course everyone here wants to reach an agreement but it has to be acceptable to people and the people with the lowest income here, in our community, must be able to live off their salaries.”