Without Foreign Workers, Slaughterhouses Face Staffing Shortages

icelandic sheep

Despite rising unemployment throughout Iceland, slaughterhouses throughout the country are having trouble staffing their facilities in advance of the annual slaughtering season, RÚV reports. Slaughterhouses have predominantly been staffed by foreign workers in recent years, but bringing in workers from abroad is more difficult now during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Iceland’s slaughtering season generally begins in early September and accordingly, slaughterhouses begin advertising for staff during the summer. Slauturfélag Suðurlands, which runs the largest abattoir in Iceland, expects that they will need to extend their season of operation; they are usually staffed by a large group of professional butchers from New Zealand during the slaughtering season but those workers cannot travel to Iceland this year. CEO Steinþór Skúlason says that it is proving difficult to find Icelanders to do this work.

Ágúst Torfi Hauksson, the operations manager at a slaughterhouse in Húsavík, North Iceland is experiencing similar staffing difficulties. He says 35 employees are still needed at his facility. He’d hoped that people who had been laid off from their jobs at the silicon plant in Bakki would apply and indeed, all nine of the former silicon plant employees who have applied for work at the Húsavík slaughterhouse have been given jobs. But that’s only nine applications from a total of 80 workers who lost their jobs.

Fjallalamb in Kópasker, Northeast Iceland still needs 20 employees. “It’s going a lot slower than in previous years because of this COVID situation,” remarked operations manager Víkingur Björnsson. “What I’m trying to do now, as best I can, is to get Icelanders or people who live in Iceland.” Víkingur hasn’t had much luck with this yet, however. “I’m a little surprised. There’s a fair amount of unemployment in the country. This is, of course, not long-term [work], just six weeks, but still.”

East Iceland Performing Arts Centre Gets Green Light

Egilsstaðir

Construction of a new performing arts centre in Egilsstaðir, East Iceland, will begin this year, RÚV reports. The project, which includes a black box theatre and an exhibition space, will receive 60% of its funding from the state, while the National Power Company of Iceland will also be a major sponsor. The new facilities have the potential to give new life to the region’s performing arts scene.

Björn Ingimarsson, mayor of Fljótsdalshérað, hopes professional theatre companies from Reykjavík and elsewhere will bring their productions to the new stage. “What we’ve sensed from professional theatres is that this will open doors for their operations here in the area… it’s a truly exciting project.”

In 2018, the Icelandic government announced an investment of ISK 300 million ($2.8m/€2.4m) to enlarge the East Iceland Heritage Museum and build up Sláturhúsið Cultural Centre in Egilsstaðir, East Iceland. The agreement is the result of an old promise to build cultural and arts centres in all regions of the country. The federal government will fund 60% of the project, which is expected to cost around ISK 500 million ($4.7m/€4m).

The National Power Company’s investment in the project involves paying ten years of rent upfront for the new exhibition space, where it will collaborate with the municipality to create an exhibition on green energy. Björn did not divulge the exact amount that the National Power Company was contributing to the project, but said “it’s an amount that makes a difference.”