Efling Members to Vote on a Near 1700-Person Strike Thursday

efling union hotel strike

Last Sunday, Efling’s negotiating committee unanimously approved three additional strike actions, Vísir reports. If these actions are approved by union members, an additional 1700 workers would go on strike by the end of the month.

Voting to begin on Thursday

On Sunday, February 12, the negotiating committee of the Efling union unanimously approved the motion to put three strike notices to a vote among members. If approved, approximately 1700 Efling members are set to go on strike. These include employees of hotels, including the hotel chains Centerhotels and Keahótels; security companies, including Securitas and Öryggismiðstöðin; and cleaning companies, including Sólar and Dagar, alongside other smaller cleaning companies.

“Efling’s previous three strike notices were approved with a decisive majority and a good turnout,” a statement from Efling notes. “ Voting starts at noon on Thursday and ends at 6 PM on Monday.”

The announcement also quotes Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, Chair of Efling, as saying: “Over the last few weeks, the voting on strikes has clearly demonstrated that essential workers in all sectors of the labour market in the capital region are united. Our demand is for a fair wage agreement that takes into account the circumstances and composition of our members. I encourage negotiating parties to strike an agreement with us.”

700 already on strike – and more to go on strike tomorrow

Last week, nearly 700 Efling union members went on strike at seven hotels belonging to the Íslandshotel chain in Reykjavík – and tomorrow is expected to see more union members join those strikes, including workers employed by other hotels, oil truck drivers in the capital area, and employees of the shipping company Samskip.

Yesterday, the Court of Appeal (Landsréttur) ruled that the Efling union does not need to hand over its membership registry to the state mediator. Following the ruling, the state mediator was given permission by the Minister of Social Affairs and the Labour Market to step aside. The Director General of the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA), Halldór Benjamín Þórbergsson, stated that he regrets the mediator’s decision.

Today, Halldór Benjamín told Vísir that he did not rule out the possibility of the government intervening to block Efling’s strikes. Otherwise, society would become paralyzed by or after the weekend.

“In the coming days, society will feel the effects of strikes in a tangible way. I predict that either side of the weekend, most of our daily lives will be paralysed. Politicians cannot afford to stand on the sidelines when such a situation has arisen,” Halldór Benjamín stated.

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.

 

Restaurant and Hotel Workers to Vote on Strike

Efling Chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir

The Efling labour union agreed tonight to initiate “a secret electronic strike ballot” to decide whether or not those members “who are under the general agreement between [the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise] and Efling and the Keflavík union, specifically those working in restaurants, hotels and associated industries” should go on strike. A public statement to this effect was published on the union’s website. The strike, should it proceed, would come in the wake of stalled negotiations over the union’s wage contract with the SA, which expired on December 31.

Tensions between the Efling, VR, VLFA and VLFGrv unions and SA flared again following proposed changes to the tax system presented by Bjarni Benediktsson, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, on Tuesday night.

The government’s contribution to the debate involved a significant change to the Icelandic tax system wherein the lowest tax level would be newly set at a monthly wage of ISK 325,000 [$2,718; €2,395] a month. The taxation on this level would be 32.94%.  The tax-free limit would be set at ISK 159.174 a month, taking into account a 4% pension contribution.

Bjarni’s presentation explained that the limit for both the first and second tax levels would be ISK 325,000 in order to maximize, he said, the benefits for low-income groups, as well as people with disabilities and the elderly. Per the second level, however, those who earn less than ISK 927,087 [$7,746; €6,830] a month would be taxed at 36.94% while those who make more than that would be taxed at 46.24%.

The union chairs, including Efling’s Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, expressed “anger and disappointment” with the government’s proposals, stating that “[i]t was hoped that the government’s involvement could rekindle the discussion, but it’s clear…that this hope will come to nothing.”

Should the work stoppage be approved, it will apply, says the Efling statement, “to cleaning, housekeeping and laundry services for rooms and other sleeping accommodation and connected areas and services, for example in corridors, toilets and shared spaces, in all hotels and guesthouses in the area which Efling has jurisdiction over, which includes the areas of Reykjavík, Kópavogur, Seltjarnarnes, Mosfellsbær, Kjós, Grímsnes og Grafningshreppur, Hveragerði, Ölfus County, and additionally Hafnarfjörður and Garðabær.”

The proposed stoppage would be temporary and would begin at 10:00 am on March 8 and would end at 23:59 on the same day. If a collective agreement were to be signed before the strike, it would, obviously, not go ahead.

Voting on whether or not Efling members will strike will begin on Monday, February 25 at 10 am and end at 10 pm on Thursday, February 28.