Labour Minister to Disputing Parties: “You Must Try Harder”

The labour legislation needs to be revised in light of the current wage dispute between the Efling union and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA), government ministers stated yesterday. Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister of Social Affairs and the Labour Market, told RÚV that it was the responsibility of the disputing parties to resolve their conflict.

Government intervention an “emergency measure”

At a meeting yesterday, government ministers discussed the impact of strikes and lockouts in the ongoing wage dispute between the Efling union and SA. The ministers noted that the societal impact of a drawn-out dispute would be far-reaching – but that government intervention was an emergency measure. “We see it as our duty to be aware of what may lie ahead. I think it’s obvious to everyone that in the event of widespread strikes, not to mention lockouts, then that would have huge consequences for society as a whole,” Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson told RÚV.

Various memoranda on the impact of the strikes were submitted during the cabinet meeting, which ran longer than expected. Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, Minister of Infrastructure, remarked that the government was not going to intervene at this time. “It’s obvious that the conflicting parties have reached an impasse, perhaps they’re expecting (an intervention), but in our opinion, resolving the dispute is their responsibility. We are, however, observing these developments closely, and if the dispute begins to have a serious and widespread impact on society in the coming days – we’re talking shortly, not even weeks – then, of course, we must be prepared.

“They must try harder”

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir told RÚV that the government had already presented measures to facilitate collective bargaining. “It’s clear that we will not bring these measures to bear in this dispute; it’s in their hands. It’s their duty to do everything they can to reach an agreement. But we are, of course, following the situation very closely. A lot can happen over the coming days.”

Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister of Social Affairs and the Labour Market, stated that the wide-ranging effects of further strikes and lockouts on society were being closely monitored by the government. “This is a serious situation that has arisen and strong words have been spoken on both sides, which I don’t think is particularly helpful when it comes to resolving this dispute. I emphasise that it’s the responsibility of the disputing parties to sit down and try their best to reach an agreement.”

When asked if he believed an agreement could be reached, Guðmundur Ingi responded thusly: “I would say that it’s the duty of the negotiating parties to try to get together; they must try harder.”