Efling has demanded a meeting with Halldór Benjamín Þorbergsson, the director of the business cartel, SA, in the offices of the state mediator, due to noncompliance with the new collective agreements. The case arose after the mass termination of wage terms by Árni Valur Sólonsson, a hotel manager, immediately after new agreements went into force. In the letter of termination this is said to be “with the aim of reducing labour costs”, due to “foreseeable cost increase”.

A letter was sent to Árni Valur, who operates the CityPark, CityCenter and CapitalInn hotels, to get an explanation. Árni Valur’s operating companies are members of SA, which was also asked for a response.

The central committee of ASÍ subsequently declared that its member unions had the right to terminate collective agreements with those employers who didn’t respect the recent agreements. This would put strikes against these companies on the table.

“We negotiate in good faith, with the aim of improving the condition of our members,” says Viðar Þorsteinsson, director of Efling. “This is a slap in the face, to respond by abolishing benefits that workers have enjoyed. It’s almost as if our members are being punished for having negotiated for a raise.”

SA has now sent a response to Efling where they flatly reject that these are evasions to escape the raises in the new agreements. No clarification is offered on the words of the letter, which staff were ordered to sign on the spot, that “foreseeable cost increase” was a reason for the termination.

“They are simply covering for the worst sort of capitalist,” says Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, head of Efling. “The sort of capitalist who is prepared to drop wages to the bare bones of the collective agreement when they negotiate a raise, the sort who tried to expand his hotel without building permission last fall, the sort who offered such a bad deal to the builders that the construction was stopped due to life-threatening conditions. A man who tried to prevent his staff from voting on its own strike. A man who has often said that he pays his staff more than other hotel managers, which is simply not true. A man who said he was going to create his own union for his employees, because he didn’t think Efling was good enough. This is the man who SA is now putting its neck out for.”

Viðar Þorsteinsson says the entire agreement with SA is in jeopardy. “The question is whether the association is giving a green light to wholesale noncompliance of the collective agreement they themselves signed.”

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