Journalists on 12-Hour Strike Today

Having voted down a proposed agreement with the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) this week, members of the Union of Icelandic Journalists (BÍ) went on a twelve-hour strike at 10:00 AM today, RÚV reportsThe strike extends to reporters, photographers, and videographers for online media at Fréttablaðið, Morgunblaðið, RÚV, and Vísir. Print journalists will not go on strike.

Hjálmar Jónsson, Chairman of the Union of Icelandic Journalists (pictured above), stated yesterday that the demands of journalists fall completely within the bounds of the Standard of Living Agreement (a collective bargaining agreement signed in April of this year by various Icelandic unions that emphasises “improved wages for lower-paid workers”). Hjálmar has called for a neutral assessment of the union’s demands. “My offer has not been accepted but it still stands,” Hjálmar stated.  

A meeting between the Union of Icelandic Journalists and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise has been scheduled for next Tuesday. The first proposed agreement was drafted last week. However, approximately 70% of union members voted against the agreement on Tuesday. Yesterday, Árvakur, publisher of Morgunblaðið, laid off 15 staff members.

The first strike on November 8 marked the first time in 40 years that members of the Union of Icelandic Journalists have gone on strike. 

Journalists Strike for Twelve Hours Today

Having failed to reach an agreement with the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA), members of the Union of Icelandic Journalists (BÍ) will go on a twelve-hour strike at 10:00 AM today, RÚV reports. The strike extends to reporters, photographers, and videographers for online media at Fréttablaðið, Morgunblaðið, RÚV, and Vísir. Print journalists will not go on strike.

This is the third strike that BÍ organises. If no agreement is reached next week, union members, including print journalists for Morgunblaðið and Fréttablaðið, will go on strike on Thursday, November 28 – the day before Black Friday. As myriad advertisements are run in newspapers on Black Friday, the day has become one of the biggest days for print media in Iceland.

Hjálmar Jónsson, Chairman of the Union of Icelandic Journalists, stated that it was a great disappointment and “incomprehensible” that no agreement had been reached yesterday: they had been so close. Further, and more extensive, strikes will be organised in December. This is the first time in 40 years that members of the Union of Icelandic Journalists have gone on strike. The union has scheduled at a meeting for members at noon today.

Web-Media Journalists on Strike Until 18:00 Today

At 10:00 AM this morning, reporters, photographers, and videographers for online media went on an eight-hour strike. The strike is organised by the Union of Icelandic Journalists (BÍ) and will extend to four media outlets: Fréttablaðið, Morgunblaðið, RÚV, and Vísir.

During the first strike, which occurred last Friday, November 8, several journalists at Morgunblaðið (among them contractors and managers) – who do not normally write news on www.mbl.is – filled in for their colleagues, in an act that was condemned by Morgunblaðið’s web-media journalists. RÚV was also accused of violating the strike. The Union of Icelandic Journalists has since sued the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise over these violations.

As the majority of web-media journalists employed by Vísir and Fréttablaðið are members of the Union of Icelandic Journalists, it is likely that no news will be published on the two companies’ websites today. Given that a large portion of journalists on RÚV are members of The Society of Broadcast Journalists (a different union), the strike will likely have a smaller impact on RÚV’s website (the Society of Broadcast Journalists did, however, declare their support for their colleagues’ strike).

Further Strikes in the Offing

Members of the Union of Icelandic Journalists voted to strike in early November (for the first time in 40 years), after ten months of negotiation failed to produce an agreement between the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise and the union. Of 211 members, 131 voted, with over 83% in support of the strike.

If no agreement is reached over the next few days, the aforementioned group of web-media journalists will go on a twelve-hour strike next Friday, November 22. If no agreement is reached after that date, journalists at Fréttablaðið and Morgunblaðið will also go on strike on November 28.

Representatives from the Union of Icelandic Journalists met with the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise yesterday. After the meeting, Hjálmar Jónsson, Chairman of the Union of Icelandic Journalists, stated that the two parties were far from reaching an agreement. Halldór Benjamín Þorbergsson, Chairman of SA, stated that the demands of journalists extend beyond the Standard of Living Agreement (a collective bargaining agreement signed in April of this year by various Icelandic unions that emphasises “improved wages for lower-paid workers”). According to Halldór, an offer similar to other offers made to members of SA had been extended toward the Union of Iceland Journalists, which the Union declined.

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.”