Government Employees Surprised by Paycheck Delay in Advance of Holiday Weekend

Merchant’s Weekend is coming up, but for many government employees, a surprising change to their payment schedule will leave them with a lot less to celebrate—or at the very least, less money to celebrate with. Fréttablaðið reports that the Financial Management Authority (FJS) has decided to exercise its right to pay salaries on the first working day of the new month, which has left numerous government employees—particularly younger individuals—in the lurch before many are planning to travel.

Merchant’s Weekend is a three-day holiday that overlaps with the first Monday of August every year. It is the biggest travel weekend in Iceland, and also a major festival weekend around the country, with the Westman Island’s Þjóðhátíð foremost on the schedule. But since Monday is a national holiday, strapped government employees’ paychecks will be delayed even longer: they will not be paid out until Tuesday, August 2.

FSJ certainly has the right, per Article 10, Act 70/1996, to pay wages on the first working day of the new month, but the authority has only exercised this right once before, that is, in May of this year. At the time, many employees thought the change in payday was a mistake. Public employees were not given much forward notice about the upcoming change in payment schedule, either—FSJ only announced the new payment date on Monday of this week.

Contactless Payment Coming to City Buses

Public bus in Reykjavík

Strætó will be accepting bids for a new contactless payment method on city buses before the end of the summer, RÚV reports. The intention is to begin implementing a payment system that is more in line with those in neighbouring countries and it’s hoped that this will be introduced in early 2020.

Sales manager Markús Vilhjálmsson says the new system will allow people to scan a card or a QR code to pay their fare. Strætó also plans to make it possible for people to pay with contactless credit cards. This should make it easier for bus drivers to do their jobs and for passengers to buy tickets. Forged paper bus tickets have been a major problem for Strætó, says Markús, but the contactless system should eliminate that issue.

The Strætó smartphone app makes it possible for passengers to purchase tickets in-app and then activate them on buses, but they must have an internet connection to do this. There have been cases of riders complaining that they can’t connect to the on-bus wifi and in a few select cases, children have been prevented from boarding buses when they weren’t able to show a valid ticket on their phones. (Markús noted that it’s Strætó’s policy that children in particular should be given the benefit of the doubt in such cases, but there have been cases of drivers enforcing the rules too strictly.) However, about 40% of ticket purchases are made through the Strætó app, Markús concluded, which is a good indication that passengers are largely satisfied with it.