Every year, thousands of workers are subject to wage theft by employers. There are no penalties for these violations. The Confederation of Icelandic Employers (Samtök attvinnulífsins or SA) is currently preventing fulfilment of one of the Icelandic government´s most important promises. The promise to allow fines for violations to the minimum wage for workers is part of the Quality of Life Agreement. So far, there has been little fulfilment of this promise and SA has opposed the well thought out and fair solutions presented by ASÍ.

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, in an article with Frettablaðið today, calls attention to this travesty.

The impunity for the theft of worker´s wages in the Icelandic labor market is shameful. Every year, thousands of workers are deprived of their wages, which they will either never see or require the help of the trade unions to collect. In 2019, the average amount for a wage claim received by Efling on behalf of its members was 492.000 ISK. There are hundreds of these types of wage claims received every year.

The Icelandic government finally took action to rectify these violations in finalizing the Quality of Life Agreement. Fines were promised for violations to the minimum wage for workers (see point 22 in the document “Government support for the Quality of Life Agreement”).

On behalf of Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Minister of Social Affairs, work began and representatives of both SA and ASÍ were called to make proposals for legislative changes. ASÍ presented well researched and fair solutions. SA, however, opposed all of these solutions and stopped further progress on this point. This is an attack on one of the most important points of the current agreement.

It appears that SA cannot be trusted to operate within the law and on the basis of the agreement that they themselves have previously agreed to. Instead of protecting their own collective bargaining agreements, they are protecting those who break them.

Lawlessness has a strong ally in SA. Its membership consists of the new generation of the Independence Party, educated by the unbridled good years and quick profits of the tourism bubble. Best practices and the minimum amount of integrity when negotiating does not seem to matter in their minds.

Workers in Iceland, however, have a strong movement and strong weapons. In the spring of 2019, employers received a long wage agreement and given respite until November 2022. The validity of this agreement depends on respect for the agreement and its preconditions. If these conditions are not met, Efling’s members will have to enforce the fulfilment through other means.

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, Chairman of Efling

Published in Fréttablaðið 18.8.2020

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