Efling Strikes: Gas Stations Could Run Dry as Early as Thursday

driving in reykjavík

The CEO of Skeljungur says that gas stations could run out of gas as early as Thursday if oil truck drivers begin strikes on Wednesday, Vísir reports. The Director General of the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise has called the Efling union’s strikes “pointless.”

Strikes around the corner

There is still no progress in the wage dispute between the Efling union and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA); strikes of oil truck drivers, Beraya hotel employees, and Edition hotel employees are looming. If no settlement is reached, strikes will begin this Wednesday, and if they do – oil companies’ provisions are expected to run dry quickly.

Þórður Guðjónsson, CEO of Skeljungur – Shell’s official reseller in Iceland – told Vísir yesterday that he was concerned about the situation. Efling union members have been preparing for the strike since they voted on the matter earlier this month.

“This is a matter of concern because Iceland is dependent on oil, and it is quite clear that this will hit us pretty hard if it happens. Since it was announced that a strike was planned beginning on midday, Wednesday, February 16, we began filling all of our supply tanks,” Þórður remarked.

It doesn’t take many days to empty a gas station, Þórður noted – even high-capacity stations like Orkan on Vesturlandsvegur (where the interview was conducted): “It will probably be empty on day two after the strike, so we’re talking late evening on Thursday, this station could start to run dry.”

The effects of the strikes could prove multifaceted: freight transport and tourism, for example, would suffer from the gas shortage, while various essential services would be exempted from the strike. “The police, ambulances, the fire brigade, our search-and-rescue teams, those who handle anti-icing, snow ploughs, the hospitals, back-up stations, and god knows what; these services are among those that would be exempt,” Þórður Guðjónsson observed.

The strikes are “pointless”

Halldór Benjamín Þorbergsson, Chair of the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise, was interviewed on the radio programme Sprengisandur yesterday morning. He claimed that Efling’s strikes were pointless.

“There is no purpose to Efling’s current strikes. There are no negotiation meetings scheduled. The state mediator called a meeting last week, but Efling refused to attend. This is absolutely central to this discussion. Because the purpose and nature of strikes are to force the contracting party to conclude a collective agreement – but there are no meetings in this dispute. The only thing that the parties are waiting for is the Court of Appeal’s ruling, and when that ruling is made, the progress of the labour dispute will be determined,” Halldór Benjmaín stated.

If the Court of Appeal confirms the ruling of the District Court of Reykjvík, the Efling union would be forced to hand over its electoral roll (i.e. membership registry) and then vote on the state mediator’s proposal; their agreement would be the equivalent of a collective agreement.

“There are only two options that can arise. On the one hand, the members of Efling accept the mediation proposal, and the mediation proposal will then be the equivalent of a collective bargaining agreement, effective retroactively from November 1, 2022. Then, in fact, this cycle of collective bargaining in the Icelandic labour market would almost be over,” Halldór Benjamín concluded.