Nurses’ Strike Narrowly Avoided

keflavik airport COVID-19 testing

Nurses in Iceland’s public healthcare system will not go on strike today as scheduled. The State Mediation Officer put forth a mediating proposal in the ongoing contract negotiations between the Icelandic Nurses’ Association (FÍH) and the state. The mediating proposal will be presented to FÍH nurses in meetings scheduled today and tomorrow at Reykjavík’s Grand Hotel, who will have until June 27 to cast their votes.

Icelandic nurses have been without a contract for nearly 15 months. Nurses voted down one collective agreement that was presented at the end of April, citing dissatisfaction with the proposed rise in base salary. When negotiations stalled again, 85.5% of nurses voted in favour of an indefinite strike which was scheduled to start today, June 22. The strike would have affected public healthcare services across the country, and in particular raised concerns that Iceland’s COVID-19 border screening initiative, which is overseen by nurses, would be disrupted.

Base Salary Decided By Arbitration

According to a press release from the State Mediation Officer, the two parties have now agreed on nearly all of the contract’s key issues, including a new working arrangement of day work and shift work. They remain divided on one key issue, however: nurses’ base salary. “Per the assessment of the State Mediation Officer, the difference between the contracting parties is profound and it will not be resolved at the negotiation table.” Therefore, the specific points of controversy regarding nurses’ wages will be directed to a special arbitration committee.

Icelandic nurses have long demanded that starting wages within the profession be raised. This stance was apparent in a survey conducted in May. “Nurses are sending a very clear message,” FÍH chairperson Guðbjörg Pálsdóttir stated when discussing the survey results. “They are ready to go quite far to receive a salary that takes into account their education and the responsibility of their job.”

Nurses Prepare to Strike

Nurses Hospital Landsspítalinn við Hringbraut

The overwhelming majority of Icelandic nurses have voted in favor of a strike, RÚV reports. Per a recent vote of the Icelandic Nursing Association, 85.5% approved a strike; 13.3% opposed it. A total of 2,143 nurses participated in voting, a participation rate of 82.2%.

As a result of the vote, the union has decided that nurses will go on an indefinite strike starting at 8.00am on Monday, June 22. The strike will continue until the union has reached a contract agreement with the Icelandic government.

The strike will extend to nurses working throughout Iceland. “We’re talking about the whole country,” remarked Nursing Association chair Guðbjörg Pálsdóttir. “All healthcare centres and those workplaces that employ nurses working under this contract.”

See Also: Pay Cut Goes Into Effect for Hospital Nurses

Negotiations between the nursing union and the government resumed after nurses rejected the collective bargaining agreement that was presented at the end of April. A key issue is base salaries; nurses demand that starting wages within the profession be raised.

Icelandic nurses have been without a contract for almost 15 months.

Nurses Vote on Strike Action in Iceland

Nurses Hospital Landsspítalinn við Hringbraut

The Icelandic Nurses’ Association (FÍH) has invited its members who work in the public healthcare system to vote on strike action. Nurses have been without a contract for over a year, and voted down a contract signed by FÍH and the state in April. Continuing negotiations between the two parties have not proven successful.

Electronic voting began yesterday and members will have until this Friday at noon to cast their votes. Around 2,500 nurses that work in the public healthcare system are eligible to take part.

Nurses are voting on a general strike that would begin on Monday, June 22, if a contract is not agreed upon by that time. The strike would impact all state-run healthcare clinics and institutions as well as other public institutions that employ nurses.

Read More: Two-Thirds of Nurses Prepared to Strike

According to a survey conducted May 7-10, nearly half of nurses are prepared to go on a general strike (49.6%) and 32.5% are prepared to go on an overtime strike. The survey results also revealed that nurses’ biggest issue with the proposed contract was that it did not raise their base salary enough.