Airport Strikes to Begin in May

Keflavík Airport

The union of aviation workers and Sameyki, a nationwide union of public servants, have agreed to strike action at Keflavík airport starting 9 May, Vísir reports.

Negotiation standstill

Around 80% of the aviation workers union approved the action. Negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement have been ongoing since September 2023 and the labour dispute was handed over to the State Conciliation and Mediation Officer on 8 April.

On 28 April, aviation workers felt that negotiations with SA Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise on behalf of Isavia, the national airport and air navigation service provider of Iceland, had come to a standstill.

Departures halted

The strike action will begin at 4 PM on 9 May with a ban on overtime and training. Airport security workers will strike from 4 to 8 AM on Friday 10 May, Thursday 16 May, Friday 17 May and Monday 20 May.

Unnar Örn Ólafsson, head of the aviation workers union has said that these four hour work stoppages should halt departures and that they were chosen because of how they impact the airlines. “Passengers will not be able to enter if the security check is closed,” he said. “It will also take longer to load passengers into the airplanes.”

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Another Collective Bargaining Agreement Signed

A new collective bargaining agreement was signed yesterday, Vísir reports, between the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) and the labour unions The Electrical Industry Association of Iceland, the food and restaurant union Matvís, the Icelandic Union of Marine Engineers and Metal Technicians, and the printers’ union Grafía.

Stability and gratitude

The contract worked out between the parties is to last four years, and outlines terms similar to the agreement recently approved by the labour union Efling and others last week.

SA director Sigríður Margrét Oddsdóttir told reporters that the aim of the agreement was for “economic stability”, adding, “We are just incredibly proud and grateful after the day today.”

Ball in their court

Kristján Þórður Snæbjarnarson, the director of the The Electrical Industry Association of Iceland, was more guarded in his response to the contract.

While saying that it was indeed good news that their workers had gotten new wage agreements, a pay rise is not the only thing that affects economic stability and keeping up with the cost of living.

“It is also extremely important that interest rates and inflation reduce,” he told reporters, adding, “The ball is in the court of the Central Bank, companies in this country, and state and local authorities to hold back on tariffs and participate in this project with us. That, of course, is what matters. We send the ball their way.”

More negotiations to come

The next major round of labour negotiations is to take place between SA and VR, which is the labour union of employees in commerce, services and offices.

Talks between SA and VR have been contentious, and were recently broken off, but talks between the two parties are set to resume tomorrow.

New Wage Agreement Aims to Stabilise Iceland’s Economy

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir

A collective bargaining agreement, effective from 2024 to 2028, aims to lower inflation, reduce interest rates, and ensure stability. The agreement includes significant wage increases, a premium for shift workers, and a government-supported ISK 50 billion ($368 million / €336 million) financial package to aid its implementation.

The “Stability Agreement”

A long-term collective bargaining agreement valid for four years was signed yesterday between a broad coalition of trade unions in the general labour market, the Federation of General and Special Workers (SGS), Efling and Samiðn and the Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASÍ). The agreement covers tens of thousands in the labour market and is effective from February 1, 2024, to January 31, 2028, RÚV reports.

The main objective of the agreement, referred to by the unions and the Confederation of Iceland Enterprise (SA) as the Stability Agreement (Stöðuleikasamningurinn), is to create conditions for lower inflation, reduced interest rates, and stability.

Minimum wage increases

As noted by RÚV, the agreement aims for wage increases in several stages, raising wages by a minimum of ISK 23,750 ($175 / €160). The increase is retroactive from February 1 of this year by 3.25%. At the start of next year, wages will increase by 3.5% and then again by 3.5% on January 1, 2026, and 2027. The agreement also includes clause regarding a December wage supplement and a holiday bonus, which will increase annually.

Employees in cleaning jobs will receive special wage increases. Due to the special working conditions of cleaning staff, a cleaning supplement of ISK 19,000 ($140 / €128) is paid monthly on the wage scale for a full-time position.

A shift premium will also be paid to shift workers for all work outside of regular working hours until the end of their shift.

Furthermore, changes will be made to the structure of bonus payments for manual labourers in the tourism sector, and it will be possible to agree on different shift premium payments than those stipulated in the collective agreement at the workplace.

Government to support agreement with spending package

As noted by Vísir, the government introduced an ISK 50 billion ($368 million / €336 million) spending package to support the agreement after it was reached. Municipalities will also contribute to the agreement through increased land allocation and free school meals.

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, Heiða Björg Hilmisdóttir, the chairperson of the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities, stated that free school meals were a point of contention for municipalities but that an agreement was reached wherein free school meals would be implemented in collaboration with the government. Despite the agreements including an additional ISK 10 billion ($74 million / €67 million) for municipalities, local authorities do not stand to benefit more than others, Heiða maintained.

Additional measures include increased housing support for parents in rental housing and increased contributions to child benefits, maternity/paternity leave, and housing benefits.

Iceland News Review: Help For Grindavík, AI, Eurovision And More!

INR

In this episode of Iceland News Review, we go in-depth on what assistance Grindavík residence will get, the valiant efforts being made to make the town safer and livable again, as well as how the financial recovery package has affected recent collective bargaining negotiations.

Also, a bill that could greatly restrict the use of AI in Iceland, a controversial new twist in Iceland’s possible participation in Eurovision, along with weather, road conditions, and much more!

Iceland News Review brings you all of Iceland’s top stories, every week, with the context and background you need. Be sure to like, follow and subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode!

No News in Fréttablaðið Today

Fréttablaðið was published this morning without any news articles. Print journalists went on a 12-hour strike yesterday.

Last week, the Union of Icelandic Journalists voted down a proposed agreement with the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise. The two parties met again this week but adjourned without a contract. Following the meeting, union members went ahead with their fourth proposed strike yesterday

The strike was the first to include print journalists at Morgunblaðið and Fréttablaðið, as well as photographers and videographers. Fréttablaðið – which is distributed every day of the week except Sundays – was published this morning without any news articles. The newspaper contained only freelance articles and advertisements.

Print journalists at Morgunblaðið also went on a 12-hour strike yesterday. The strike did not, however, seem to impact the content of today’s paper. This is not the first time that strikes at Morgunblaðið prove ineffectual. During earlier strikes among web-media journalists at Morgunblaðið, several other journalists who do not usually write news on mbl.is began reporting for the website. The Union of Icelandic Journalists subsequently sued Árvakur, Morgunblaðið’s publisher, for violating the strike. A decision is currently pending in the Icelandic Labour Court. 

Morgunblaðið laid off 15 employees in late November.

Strike Could Mean No Newspapers on Black Friday

Little progress has been made between the Union of Icelandic Journalists (UIJ) and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (CIE), who have been in negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement for reporters all summer.

Plans are currently being finalised among members of the UIJ for strikes in November, Vísir reports.

According to the plan, web-media reporters, along with photographers and cameramen, will go on a four-hour strike on Friday, November 8th. The strike will then extend to eight hours on Friday, November 15th, and twelve hours on Friday, November 22nd.

“If the strikes prove ineffective in securing an agreement comparable to what other trades have been offered, we are considering print-media strikes on Thursday, November 28th, the day before Black Friday,” Chairman of the UIJ, Hjálmar Jónsson, stated.

Black Friday – which is widely regarded as the beginning of the American Christmas shopping season – is the informal name for the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the US. Iceland has gradually adopted this American custom, with many local stores offering highly promoted sales. As myriad advertisements are run in print media on Black Friday, the day has become one of the biggest print media days in Iceland.

Negotiations between the UIJ and the CIE will continue next Tuesday. According to Jónsson, that meeting may prove decisive: “If negotiations don’t move forward then we will likely vote on strikes the following Wednesday. We’re being offered less than all of the other professions in Iceland. I’m disappointed in myself for having let them string me along for ten months without having reached an agreement.”

Despite difficulties, negotiations with smaller employers have gone well: “The strikes only apply to those parties unwilling to negotiate with us. Four companies have decided to let the CIE negotiate on their behalf,” Jónsson says, referring to Fréttablaðið, Morgunblaðið, Sýn, and RÚV. Jónsson estimates that a third of the journalists employed by RÚV are members of the UIJ.

According to tradition, Jónsson says, proprietors and managing directors are allowed to work through strikes. News directors and editors are members of the UIJ and it is a matter of opinion whether they may or may not work. I’d say it’s highly unlikely, however, that they’ll start performing the jobs of their underlings.”

If journalists decide to strike in November it will be the first time since 1978 that Icelandic reporters go on strike. During that time, of course, there was no such thing as online reporting or news websites. In an interview with Vísir in late September, Jónsson emphasised that the media would still fulfill its public duty, in spite of strikes:

“We will, of course, take into consideration the nature of modern media, ensuring that people have access to information. That is our duty and we can’t put that duty on hold just because we’re in a collective bargaining dispute.”