Unions Split on Wage Negotiations

vr union iceland, Ragnar Þór Ingólfsson

The coalition of unions engaged in wage negotiations with the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) suffered a setback yesterday when VR, one of the largest unions, pulled out of the talks. The other unions will go forward with their negotiations as they’ve reached an agreement on major points of contention, Morgunblaðið reports.

Negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement had been halted for two weeks after a disagreement on a clause in the proposed four-year deal to protect workers from downside risks if inflation and interest rate targets were not met. An agreement on salaries had already been made in principle.

Negotiations to proceed

Talks began again Wednesday and apart from VR, the unions accepted a compromise on the aforementioned clause. “We disagreed on whether the clause went far enough and we decided to step aside,” VR President Ragnar Þór Ingólfsson said. “I sincerely hope that they reach an acceptable deal for their constituents and that could be the foundation that we could build from and reach an agreement on what we need for our constituents.”

SA Director Sigríður Margrét Oddsdóttir said that it was a disappointment to not be able to reach an agreement with the coalition as a whole. She is still hopeful for a long-term agreement that would create the conditions to lower inflation and interest rates.

Drífa Snædal, President of the Icelandic Confederation of Labour, Steps Down

drífa snædal labour union iceland

Drífa Snædal, president of the Icelandic Confederation of Labour, has announced today that she is stepping down from her post.

Citing the formation of certain blocs within the confederation and difficult relations with elected representatives, Drífa stated that it was impossible for her to continue working as president. Upcoming salary negotiations and the annual conference in October were identified as reasons to step down sooner, rather than later.

The announcement can be found below in a Facebook post from the Icelandic Confederation of Labour.

In her statement, Drífa said that as president, she found herself in situations she had never expected. Specifically, she pointed out how Efling’s mass layoffs earlier this year forced her to publicly criticize Efling chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir for her decision. According to Drífa, the Icelandic Confederation of Labour had been working against such mass layoffs for some time, and that Sólveig’s actions put her in a very difficult position. Given the internal divisions, she said, it was impossible to move forward.

Kristján Þórður Snæbjarnarson, chairperson of the Icelandic Electrical Industry Association and vice-president of the Icelandic Labour Confederation, is slated to take over Drífa’s now-vacant position until the coming conference in October.

In a statement to Morgunblaðið, Kristján said that the situation was still very fresh, and that he had not decided whether he would run for the presidency at the conference in October. Having just received the news this morning, he said that although Drífa would be missed, it was naturally his task to step in and fill her role until more permanent decisions could be made.

The Icelandic Confederation of Labour consists of 46 trade unions and represents service workers, seamen, construction workers, office and retail workers, and several other industries in Iceland. It is the largest union confederation in Iceland, representing 2/3 of Icelandic organized labour, or around 133,000 workers. Approximately 80% of Icelandic labour is organized in trade unions, the largest of which are VR, with c. 40,000 members, and Efling, with c. 30,000 members.

Concluding her announcement, Drífa called the labour movement the “most remarkable human rights movements in the world.” She continued: “However, I can no longer perform my duties as president of the Icelandic Confederation of Labour. It’s best to end things here. And to remove any doubt, this is not part of some larger scheme, I am simply leaving this platform with no intention of returning. I thank my supporters from the bottom of my heart and ask for their understanding in this decision.”