Efling Chair Demands Labour Market MP Intercede, Withdraw State Mediator’s Proposal  

Anna Sólveig Jónsdóttir Efling Union

Efling Chair Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir is urging Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister of Social Affairs and the Labour Market, to intercede in the labour union’s ongoing dispute with the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) and withdraw the mediation proposal that state mediator Aðalsteinn Leifsson issued at the end of last week. Sólveig Anna also wants Aðalsteinn to withdraw from the negotiation process entirely. RÚV reports.

See Also: State Mediator’s Proposal Meets with Criticism from Efling and SA

The proposal, which was issued in the wake of an “unprecedented” and extremely contentious round of negotiations, essentially consists of the same terms that SA has agreed upon with other unions.

Under normal circumstances, this proposal would be put to a vote among Efling’s members. Sólveig Anna has repeatedly described it as bad for workers, however, and as such has withheld the union’s electoral roll as a way of stalling the process and preventing a vote from taking place.

Aðalsteinn demanded that the electoral roll be handed over and referred the matter to the Reykjavík District Court, which will review the case on Monday morning.

In the meantime, Efling members have voted on whether the employees of Íslandshótel will strike. The results of this vote will be announced on Monday evening.

‘The situation the state mediator has created is intolerable’

In a post on her Facebook page on Saturday afternoon, Sólveig Anna said “the situation the state mediator has created with his conduct is intolerable,” and “will not be borne.” She then published the letter she sent to Guðmundur Ingi that same day, in which she pointed out that it is the Labour Minister who is responsible for appointing the state mediator and demanded a meeting to discuss the Minister’s intercession in the dispute prior to both the court hearing and Efling’s strike announcement.

“I emphasize to you that this is a grave and precedential matter that revolves around the legitimacy of institutions of entities within the labour market, the fundamental rights of workers, and the trust that working people will have in the official framework of labour market issues in the future,” Sólveig Anna wrote in her letter.

“I ask you not to underestimate the weight that the Efling labour union will put on the response to this issue and, depending on the circumstances, will direct at those institutions in the public sector that are responsible for it. I therefore appeal to you in your responsibility as Minister of the Labour Market to comply with my request for a meeting without delay.”

As of Sunday morning, Sólveig Anna had not received a response from the Minister but told reporters that she wants Guðmundur Ingi to push for the state mediator’s proposal to be withdrawn.

Asked if she also wants the Minister to remove Aðalsteinn Leifsson from his role as state mediator, Sólveig Anna replied that Efling’s leadership has already expressed its lack of confidence in Aðalsteinn as a mediator.

“I think it’s obvious at this stage, given how he’s acted toward us, that he can’t be a party to the dispute we’re now in.”

Aluminium Smelter Workers Vote to Strike

ISAL aluminium smelter

A majority of the workers at Straumsvík aluminium smelter, near Reykjavík, have voted to strike. Vísir reports that the strike actions begin on October 16 and involve daily strikes among certain professions within the smelter throughout November. A general strike is scheduled to begin on December 1 if an agreement is not reached by that date.

According to Reinhold Richter, a union representative, the striking workers belong to five different unions and are demanding the same wage hikes as are outlined in the “standard of living contract” signed by unions and the Icelandic Confederation of Enterprise (SA) in 2019.

Read More: Rio Tinto Considers Suspending Production at Iceland Aluminum Smelter

The smelter is owned by Rio Tinto, one of the largest metal and mining corporations in the world. Earlier this year, the company considered suspending production at Straumsvík to minimise losses. Rio Tinto executives have also complained that high power costs have contributed to the company’s losses and are preparing a lawsuit against Iceland’s National Power Company.

Three-Day Westman Islands Ferry Strike Called Off

Heimaey, Westman Islands

A three-day workers’ strike that would have suspended ferry service to the Westman Islands has been called off, RÚV reports. It was the third scheduled strike action among workers in the Seamen’s Union of Iceland (Sjómannafélag Íslands), who are in wage negotiations with Herjólfur ohf., which operates the national route. The ferry is main transport route between Iceland’s mainland and the archipelago, home to around 4,300 inhabitants.

Representatives of the two parties have agreed on a negotiation schedule and expect to sign a contract by August 17. Jónas Garðarsson, chairman of the Seamen’s Union stated he would have wished for more progress in the matter, but the Union did not want to bear responsibility for the impact a strike would have on tourism in the islands.

Westman Islands Mayor Íris Róbertsdóttir celebrated the development. “Of course it’s very good news for the whole community and for us islanders that the strike has been called off,” Íris stated. “A three-day strike has a huge impact on the entire community here and at this time of year, as has been stated, it has a huge impact on every aspect of life here in the Islands, tourism and people’s employment opportunities and everything.”

Ferry Sails to Westman Islands Despite Workers’ Strike

Herjólfur ferry Landeyjahöfn harbour

The old Westman islands ferry Herjólfur III will make four trips between the islands and the mainland today despite a strike among workers in the Seamen’s Union of Iceland (Sjómannafélag Íslands). RÚV reports that workers in other unions will be operating the ship. Guðbjartur Ellert Jónsson, CEO of Herjólfur ohf. asserts the move is not strike-breaking.

“We decided to sail the old Herjólfur for four trips today to meet the responsibility and obligation we have to keep this national route open. We manned it with our employees who are not members of Sjómannafélag Íslands,” Guðbjartur stated. The new Herjólfur ferry is undergoing repairs in the meantime.

Herjólfur’s workers began strike action last week, with a one-day strike that suspended ferry service. A three-day strike is scheduled for next week if the wage dispute is not resolved. Both parties in the dispute say there is no basis for scheduling further negotiations at the moment.

Strike Action Affecting Tourism On Island

Magnús Bragason, who operates Hótel Vestmannaeyjar told RÚV that the strike action is causing a slew of cancellations. “[J]une and July looked really good and we were fully booked in the coming days. Today and tomorrow most rooms have been cancelled and cancellations have started coming for next week. So this does us a lot of harm,” Magnús stated. Magnús fears the strike will damage the islands’ reputation as an attractive tourist destination. “We had a campaign called Westman Islands – a good idea. I don’t know how much of a good idea they are today.”

Two-Day Strike Suspends Westman Islands Ferry Trips

The Herjólfur ferry to the Westman Islands will not sail today or tomorrow while its workers are on strike, RÚV reports. No meetings have been scheduled in the wage dispute between the ferry company and the Seamen’s Union (Sjómannafélag Íslands) that represents the workers.

Herjólfur’s workers began strike action last week, with a one-day strike that suspended ferry service. A three-day strike is scheduled for next week if the wage dispute is not resolved.

The ferry is the main form of transport between Iceland’s mainland and the Westman Islands for the islands’ 4,300 inhabitants. The ferry transported a record number of passengers last June, both locals and tourists, many of whom visit the islands for their large puffin colonies and unique nature.