Almost half of the members of Efling in the private sector have gone through having their jobs changed, as a result of Covid-19, by the end of April. This is the result of a survey conducted for the union by Maskína. For a great majority of those whose jobs had changed, the employment ratio had been reduced and 5% of all respondents had been laid off. The Efling questionnaire was presented to a sample of Icelandic-, English- and Polish-speaking members from April 8th to the 24th and a total of 875 responded, that is 47,5%. From the results it’s clear that Covid-19 has had a considerably onerous effect on the status of the members of Efling in the labor market.

Almost 20% of those whose employment ratio had been reduced had not yet made use of the option offered by the directorate of labor to receive benefits relative to the reduced employment ratio at the time of the survey. Also, the survey uncovered several inadequacies in the process of dismissing employees and reducing their employment ratio. Just under 60% of those employees whose employment ratio had been reduced said that a written agreement had been reached between them and their employer regarding the reduction. Also, a significant number of those who had been laid off said that they had not received their severance pay.

Of the entire sample, over 20% had had to stay at home with one or more children because of the reduced services of pre-schools and primary schools because of Covid-19. Most of them – 58% – said that they had worked as much as possible and maintained their wages. Others – almost 40% – do not have the same leeway and have been forced to use vacation days or take vacation without pay or aren’t even sure if they’ll maintain their wages. This group includes proportionately more employees of foreign origin than Icelandic ones.

Most say that work pressure has decreased or stayed the same as a result of Covid-19. Almost 22% say that, quite the contrary, the pressure at work has increased. A large majority says that their employer has no plans to compensate them especially for the increased pressure. It should be noted that the survey did not include care workers.

Almost half of the respondents said that they lived in rental housing and a fifth of them worried about losing their home. Efling members of foreign origin are more likely than others to live in rental housing. They also worry significantly more about not being able to pay their housing costs. Of the entire sample, more than 55% said that their financial worries had increased somewhat or a lot.

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, chairman of Efling, says that while the pandemic outlines the importance of front-line jobs, it also has a devastating effect on the union’s members. “Our members are very vulnerable. Not much can go amiss without presenting them with a threat to their financial security. The government is responsible for creating new jobs for people, supporting renters, compensating front-line workers for taking on increased work load and ensuring that the income of low-wage earners doesn’t diminish because of school closures. Anything less would be unjustifiable.”

 

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