Majority of Efling Members Voted in Support of Layoffs

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir Efling

Members of Efling Union voted down a proposal to reinstate all 40-odd employees of the union office who were dismissed in an unprecedented mass layoff, RÚV reports. Nearly 300 union members attended a general meeting yesterday evening, at which 152 voted in favour of the layoffs and 106 voted in opposition. Efling is Iceland’s second-largest labour union, but some members are said to be considering leaving the union in light of the controversial actions of its re-elected chairperson, Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir.

Sólveig Anna’s decision to lay off all of the union’s staff earlier this month stirred up controversy within the union as well as Iceland’s labour movement. She has stated that the dismissals, announced to employees via an email sent at 2:00 AM, were an inevitable step in making the union’s pay structure more equitable and transparent. Sólveig has, however, been accused of using the layoffs to get rid of unwanted employees.

Heated meeting

Yesterday’s meeting was heated, according to reports from Fréttablaðið. At one point, Sólveig Anna stated it was conflicting that employees who were officially on leave due to long-term illness were present at the meeting, a comment that mbl.is reports riled up attendees further.

Sólveig Anna resigned as chair of Efling last October, in the wake of allegations of bullying within the Efling office. During her four-year tenure, the union spent close to ISK 130 million [$1.04 million; € 909,063] on personnel-related matters and 40 out of 50 of its employees (80%) resigned from their positions, according to a report prepared in collaboration with the union. Sólveig was re-elected as chair of the union in February.

Efling Members Request Meeting With Union’s Leaders

Efling chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir.

Nearly 500 Efling Union members signed a letter requesting the union hold a general meeting this Friday, Vísir reports. The letter was delivered to Efling’s board yesterday. The union’s chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir has received harsh criticism for laying off all of the union’s 40-odd staff members last week.

Sólveig Anna responded to the letter in an email to the union’s members, where she stated that the board would decide on a time and place for the meeting and asks members to stay tuned. The union’s deputy chair Agnieszka Ewa Ziólkowska told Vísir she doubts Sólveig Anna will grant the request and harshly criticised her recent actions.

In the email, Sólveig Anna also wrote that few of Efling’s employees showed up to work yesterday and asked members for their understanding if services were delayed. In the letter of dismissal sent to Efling staff, they were asked to work through their period of notice, but media has reported that few staff members have been coming to work since they were laid off.

Read More: Unprecedented Mass Layoffs at Efling Union

One third of Efling’s members are Polish. One former employee of the union, Vala Árnadóttir, criticised the fact Sólveig’s email was sent out only in Icelandic and English, as the union has sent out all notices in Icelandic, English, and Polish over the past four years.

Sólveig Anna has stated that the dismissals were necessary to ensure equality and transparency in employee wages. The decision has been harshly criticised by other leaders within the labour movement as well as by Efling staff themselves and the broader community. Sólveig Anna resigned as chair of Efling last October, in the wake of allegations of bullying within the Efling office. She was re-elected as chair last February.

Unprecedented Mass Layoff at Efling Union

Efling Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir

Efling Union’s decision to lay off all of its staff has stirred up conflict within the labour movement in Iceland. The union’s returning chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir says the layoffs were inevitable, but she has received harsh criticism for the decision from the Icelandic Confederation of Labour and the Icelandic Confederation of University Graduates.

Letter of dismissal sent out at 2:00 AM

All employees of the Efling Union office received a letter of dismissal by email at 2:00 AM this morning. The letter states that their employment contract has been terminated due to “organisational and operational changes” that apply to all full-time positions at the union. It also states that the period of notice is in accordance with each individual’s employment contract, but employees are requested to fulfill their work obligations during the notice period.

Sólveig Anna has stated that the dismissals were an inevitable part of the changes that she is implementing as returning chairperson of the union. The dismissals are intended to support an acceptable gap between the lowest and highest wages at the union office and ensure equality and transparency in employee wages, according to Sóveig Anna. The dismissal letter says new positions at the union will be advertised and encourages laid-off employees to apply.

Both Drífa Snædal, the president of the Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASÍ) and Friðrik Jónsson, the chairman of the Icelandic Confederation of University Graduates (BHM) have criticised the group dismissal. Friðrik called the layoff alarming and stated it was clear that the board of Efling wanted to get rid of unwanted employees.

Costly personnel issues

Sólveig Anna resigned as chair of Efling last October, in the wake of allegations of bullying within the Efling office. During Sólveig Anna’s four-year tenure, the union spent close to ISK 130 million [$1.04 million; € 909,063] on personnel-related matters and 40 out of 50 of the union’s employees (80%) resigned from their positions, according to a report prepared in collaboration with the union. Sólveig was re-elected as chair of the union in February.

Assistant Professor of History Sumarliði Ísleifsson, who has researched the history of Iceland’s labour movement, called this morning’s layoffs unprecedented and stated that they could impact the upcoming wage negotiations. According to Sumarliði, the Icelandic labour movement’s strength in recent negotiations has been based in solidarity between unions and confederations.

Sólveig Anna Re-elected Chair of Efling Union

Efling Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir has been re-elected chairperson of Efling Union. Sólveig resigned as chair of Efling less than four months ago amid allegations of bullying and serious workplace issues from Efling staff. Three former staff members sued Efling earlier this week before the Reykjavík District Court, in part for the newly-elected chair’s behaviour, Vísir reports.

Efling is the second-largest workers’ union in Iceland, with members working in public service, healthcare, and other industries. The union’s election concluded last night, with Sólveig Anna’s “B List” receiving just under 54% of the vote. The B List received a total of 2,047 votes, while Ólöf Helga Adolfsdóttir’s A List received 1,434 votes, and Guðmundur Jónatan Baldursson’s C List received 331. Eighty-eight votes were ruled invalid. A total of 3,900 Efling members voted in the election, or 15% of the union’s 25,842 eligible voters.

“It was an incredibly hard election campaign, I have to say that, and the fact that we have won despite the incredible accusations that have been levelled at us, is in my opinion absolutely amazing,” Sólveig told RÚV reporters when the results were announced last night. She expressed gratitude to voters for their trust and stated there is be a lot of work awaiting her as the union’s next chairperson.

Sólveig faces allegations of misconduct

The election campaign was plagued by reports of staff unhappiness, bullying, and misogyny under Sólveig Anna’s tenure. A report released during the campaign found that Efling spent close to ISK 130 million [$1.04 million; € 909,063] on personnel-related matters during Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir’s four-year tenure as chairperson. Forty out of 50 of the union’s employees (80%) resigned from their positions during the same timeframe.

On Monday, three former employees of Efling sued the union before the Reykjavík District Court for alleged breaches of the wage agreement and reprehensible conduct of Sólveig Anna and Viðar Þorsteinsson, Efling’s former managing director, who is expected to return to his position following the election results. Sólveig Anna has denied all allegations of misconduct and has stated that her focus will be to serve the union’s members.

Reports of Ongoing Staff Unhappiness, Bullying, and Misogyny in Lead-Up to Efling Election

Anna Sólveig Jónsdóttir Efling Union

The Efling labour union spent close to ISK 130 million [$1.04 million; € 909,063] on personnel-related matters during Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir’s four-year tenure as chairperson, RÚV reports. Forty out of 50 of the union’s employees (80%) resigned from their positions during the same timeframe.

These were among the findings summarized in a new report that the news agency prepared in collaboration with the union, at the request of board member Guðmundur Baldursson. Guðmundur is running to be the next chairperson of Efling, as is current vice-chair Ólöf Helga Adolfsdóttir, and Sólveig Anna, who resubmitted her candidacy for the position in late January.

See Also: Sólveig Anna Announces Candidacy for Efling Chair

According to the report, from 2018, when Sólveig Anna started as chair, to 2021, when she resigned following accusations of workplace bullying, Efling paid nearly ISK 14 million [$112,089; €97,899] in severance agreements. Around ISK 66 million [$528,422; € 461,524] was paid during departing employee’s notice periods, during which time they are not required to work. The report also shows that Efling spent ISK 48 million [$384,307; € 335,654] on long-term illness during the same timeframe.

All total, this comes to ISK 128 million [$1.02 million; € 895,077]. This figure does not account for additional costs related to services provided by psychologists and other specialists.

‘Sólveig Anna was in a position to change these things’

The day after the findings of the abovementioned report came out, an independent audit on the union’s workplace culture was made public. The audit was conducted by psychology and counselling centre Líf og sál in November and December 2021 and showed evidence that bullying and misogyny were endemic to the union’s workplace culture. The findings were based on interviews with all of the union’s employees.

Efling CEO Linda Dröfn Gunnarsdóttir said she was not surprised by the findings—the audit simply confirmed the experience that many of spoken of in the union’s workplace before.

Sólveig Anna declined to be interviewed on either report, although she received several requests from RÚV to comment. In a post on her Facebook page, however, she did comment that staffing costs in the Efling office were high and that when she started as chair, she was surprised by the perks that were afforded union office employees. She said high-wage employees had turned the union movement into a self-serving machine, with perks like free catered meals on a daily basis, costly trips abroad, and frequent and expensive gatherings during working hours.

Ólöf Helga objected to Sólveig Anna’s characterization of workplace excess in the union office saying she hadn’t observed any of the things named by the former chair and, moreover, that if Sólveig Anna had thought there was something self-serving about the way the union office was being run, she could have done something about it. “I think Sólveig Anna was in a position to change these things during the four years she was the chairperson of Efling, if she was so unhappy with them.”

Election next week will decide next chairperson and board

Efling is the second largest union in Iceland, with about 27,000 members working in public service, healthcare, and other industries. Sólveig Anna became Efling’s chair in 2018 and led wage negotiations and strikes among City of Reykjavík employees and hotel workers calling for better wages and working conditions for low earners. More than half of Efling’s members are of foreign origin. (Agnieszka Ewa Ziółkowska, the current, interim chairperson is, in fact, the union’s first chair of foreign origin.)

Sólveig Anna has denied the allegations made against her, and after her resignation, union members stated, in another letter to the media, that what they had wanted was solutions–not resignations. According to RÚV, however, the news agency has sources within the union that say that some employees are worried about Sólveig Anna’s possible re-election as chair.

The Efling election, which will also decide the union’s board, will take place this coming week, from February 9 – 15.

Sólveig Anna Announces Candidacy for Efling Chair

Anna Sólveig Jónsdóttir Efling Union

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, who resigned as Efling’s Chairperson in October, has decided to resubmit her candidacy for the position, RÚV reports. Elections for a new board and chairperson will begin on February 9 and will end on February 15.

Resubmission of candidacy

In October of last year, Efling Union Chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir resigned. Her departure followed on the heels of accusations of workplace bullying, as alleged by union staff in letters of no-confidence to her, the union, and Icelandic media.

Sólveig Anna subsequently denied the allegations, and after her resignation, union members stated, in another letter to the media, that what they had wanted was solutions – and not resignations.

Following these events, Efling voted in its first chair of foreign origin (on a short-term basis): Agnieszka Ewa Ziółkowska, who previously served as vice-chair of the union.

“Numerous encouraging messages”

Elections for a new board and chairperson will commence on February 9 and will end on February 15. So far, two other candidates have announced their intentions to run: Ólöf Helga Adolfsdóttir, Efling’s current vice-chair, and Guðmundur Baldursson, Efling board member.

In an interview with RÚV, Sólveig Anna remarked that she had decided to submit her candidacy in light of the “numerous encouraging messages” that she had received from union members. Despite these positive messages, Sólveig added that her decision had required careful deliberation: “I still spent a lot of time weighing the prospect, but in the end, having discussed it with good people, we reached this conclusion.”

Sólveig Anna will be campaigning under the banner of Baráttulistinn (the Fight List), and states that she is prepared for the campaign: “I’m certainly ready for the fight. Since I first assumed chair of the union, in 2018, I’ve been prepared to fight. Efling has made tremendous strides; we managed to transform this colossal bureaucracy, which enabled the continuation of low-wage policies, into the most powerful tool wielded by Icelandic workers.”

Iceland’s second largest labour union

As noted in an article in Iceland Review last year, Efling is Iceland’s second-largest labour union, with around 27,000 members working in public service, healthcare, and other industries. Sólveig Anna became Efling’s chair in 2018 and led wage negotiations and strikes among City of Reykjavík employees and hotel workers calling for better wages and working conditions for low earners. More than half of Efling’s members are of foreign origin.

Efling Union Appoints First Chair of Foreign Origin

Strike efling hotel workers union

Efling Union, whose chair resigned earlier this month following allegations of workplace bullying, has now voted in its first chair of foreign origin. The new chairperson is Agnieszka Ewa Ziółkowska, previously vice-chair of the union. More than half of Efling’s members are of foreign origin, and Agnieszka told Kjarninn she is pleased that foreigners now have a representative from their ranks heading the union.

Read More: Efling Union Leaders Resign

Efling is Iceland’s second-largest labour union, with around 27,000 members working in public service, healthcare, and other industries. Efling’s chairperson since 2018, Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, resigned from the position earlier this month following allegations of bullying from Efling employees. Since her appointment was announced, Angieszka has been the target of criticism on social media for her Icelandic language skills. Agnieszka understands Icelandic though she does not speak it, and says her Icelandic language ability will not be an issue in her position.

“First of all, most foreigners in Iceland work in low-wage jobs – and work among other foreigners who also do not speak Icelandic,” Agnieszka stated. “Secondly, I understand Icelandic and I believe that it is very important to make Icelandic society aware that foreigners are part of this society. We must have the right to participate in society – no matter how long we stay here. Even though we do not speak perfect Icelandic, we deserve to be participants here.”

Fighting for rights of low-wage workers

The new chair says her priorities will be the same as those of the former chair: fighting for the rights of low-wage workers. Agnieszka stated she would focus on resolving issues in the Efling office and making sure the union continues to provide necessary services to its members. “I have been a member of Efling for most of the time I have lived in Iceland. I know how important it is for members to get the services they deserve,” Agnieszka stated. “I see the chairmanship as a unifying symbol for members. Efling must be able to stand by them when they need it because low-wage earners are unable to hire a lawyer to fight for their rights. And believe me, employers sometimes go too far. That’s why it’s so important to keep the union going – that’s our goal.”

Agnieszka’s appointment is short-term: Efling Union will hold elections for a new board and chairperson before the end of March.

Efling Union Staff Wanted Solutions, Not Resignations

Efling chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir.

Staff at Efling Union did not intend to force the union’s chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir out of her job, according to a statement that union representatives sent to media today. Sólveig Anna resigned from her position after a staff meeting last Friday and a letter from the union’s staff that has been described as a statement of no confidence. Efling staff say the letter was not intended as such, rather as “the first step toward a solution” and that they hoped to solve issues in the workplace “in co-operation with superiors.”

See also: Culture of Bullying in Efling Union

In a Facebook post addressing her resignation, Sólveig Anna described issuing Efling staff an ultimatum last Friday: either they would submit a written statement withdrawing accusations on her account or she would resign as chairperson. Efling staff representatives passed a resolution on June 9 accusing Sólveig of serious offences, including keeping a so-called “execution list.” Following a meeting, staff “unequivocally confirmed” the contents of the original letter and send out statements to Sólveig, the union, and media outlets in Iceland.

The statement in full (journalist’s translation):

In light of the news coverage of the past few days we would like to state the following:

It was not the desire or intention of the staff meeting on Friday to make the chairperson of the union resign. Over the past few years, the union’s staff have worked wholeheartedly according to the policy set by the union’s leaders. Many of the union’s staff work here because of the battle Sólveig has fought. Staff wanted to solve the problems they brought up in co-operation with superiors.

The statement released on Friday was not put forth with the aim of declaring no confidence or to force anyone out of their job. It was intended as the first step toward a solution.

Staff members are, as usual, working for union members and with their interests at heart.

On behalf of Efling staff,

Union Representatives

Resignations Will Not Fix Culture of Bullying, Former Efling Board Member Says

More than resignations are necessary to stop the bullying and violence faced by employees of Efling Union, Anna Marjankowska, a former Efling board member, told Iceland Review. Efling’s chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir and CEO Viðar Þorsteinsson have both resigned after Efling employee representatives released a statement of no-confidence in Sólveig Anna. She has denied accusations of intimidation and bullying.

Read More: Efling Union Leaders Resign After No-Confidence Letter from Employees

Efling is Iceland’s second-largest labour union, representing around 27,000 members who work in public service, healthcare, and other industries. Marjankowska joined the board of Efling in April 2018, not long after Sólveig Anna took over as chair, and says she was forced to quit due to bullying in September 2019. “I had to stop my activity in Efling after the violence I faced representing office staff members who received unfair treatment,” she stated. “Efling and ASÍ should be an example for other workplaces and if they do not address bullying and lack of transparency then they’re giving a green light to use them as tools of ‘management’.”

Marjankowska stated that Sólveig Anna and Viðar’s resignations did not surprise her. “They are the most responsible for the culture of bullying in the office, when I refused to stay silent about illegal dismissals in the office, they bullied me directly though others pressured me to resign from the board.” More than resignations are needed to change working conditions within Efling, Marjankowska says. “What the union needs is to serve the workers, make new policies and follow them. People need to take responsibility and change their behaviour. Quitting does not hold people accountable.”

Marjankowska also expressed concern about who would lead Efling in the upcoming contract negotiations. “How will they be managed? Who will represent the rights of foreign workers?” She added that several employees of foreign origin were the targets of bullying within Efling, including Christina Milcher and Maxim Baru, external organisers of a 2019 strike, but they were silenced.

Efling Union Leaders Resign After No-Confidence Letter From Employees

Anna Sólveig Jónsdóttir Efling Union

Efling Union Chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir has resigned after the union’s staff sent letters of no-confidence to her, the union, and Icelandic media on Friday, Vísir reports. The Union’s CEO Viðar Þorsteinsson has told Kjarninn he will follow in her footsteps and hand in his resignation letter today. Sólveig Anna has denied accusations of bullying within Efling’s office.

Efling is Iceland’s second-largest labour union, with around 27,000 members working in public service, healthcare, and other industries. Sólveig Anna became Efling’s chair in 2018 and led wage negotiations and strikes among City of Reykjavík employees and hotel workers calling for better wages and working conditions for low earners.

In a Facebook post announcing her resignation, Sólveig Anna writes that Efling staff representatives signed passed a resolution on June 9 that accused her of serious offences, including keeping a so-called “execution list.” Sólveig Anna denied the accusations in her post and says she referred the matter to other Efling executives, who followed up on the issue. According to Sólveig Anna, she then received a written statement that the case was closed.

The case was picked up by media when another board member requested access to the contents of the letter but was denied by Efling’s board. After media contacted Sólveig Anna last Thursday requesting comment on the matter, she issued an ultimatum to the Efling board: either a written statement would be issued that withdrew the accusations on her account or she would resign. Following a meeting, employees “unequivocally confirmed” the contents of the original letter and sent Sólveig Anna and Efling’s management a statement of no-confidence as well as sending out a statement to media. The statements assert that serious problems persist within the Efling office that need to be addressed.