A disgraceful attack

Efling will never accept the disgraceful attacks by SA, the employers’ association, on the lowest paid workers in Iceland. Agnieszka Ewa Ziólkowska, vice-chair of Efling, speaks about the cold reality facing workers, especially those of foreign origin, in an op-ed on frettabladid.is.A disgraceful attackI feel cold chills. I never expected an attack on the worst paid workers in Iceland in the midst of a pandemic and economic crisis. In my naivety I thought employers wouldn’t use mean tricks to evade their own promises and cheat the workers in this country out of their deserved raise. The preconditions of the collective agreements are not complicated. They’re meant to hold if purchasing power rises and interest rates fall. Nobody’s saying they haven’t. There should be no doubt that the agreements hold.SA has maintained a different line. One of the promises the government made to labour as the agreements were signed had to do with limiting 40-year indexed housing loans. Now SA wants the agreements nixed because this promise hasn’t been kept.This is absurd. SA didn’t request this promise. It is not their business to decide if it holds – it is the responsibility of unions. Let’s also be clear that legislation on the 40-year loans is being prepared and will presumably go through parliament soon. Labour has declared that it’s satisfied.The deciders in society occasionally say that Icelandic society is an equal one. That opinion has no basis in the material conditions of workers and low-wage earners. While 10% of people living here play with 56% of society’s net assets, workers here face difficult conditions. Foreign workers have it especially bad. We, who belong to that group, are more likely than those of Icelandic origin to lose our job, have lower wages, to live in the expensive rental market, to have our wages stolen and to be otherwise abused in the labour market.Now, SA is leading the charge against this worst paid group in society. Companies are encouraged to let workers take the hit. The authorities start shedding tears of their own to join in and take raises from their lowest paid workers, too, robbing them of their opportunity for a dignified life.This attack has no place in Icelandic society. It is unacceptable to face difficulties by pushing down those at the bottom. On the contrary, the authorities should protect the most vulnerable. Our experience, and that of other countries, is clear: The most effective way out of a crisis is to keep up workers’ wages. We created economic growth with our labour and we will not allow the powers that be to shift the burdens of the crisis onto our backs, too. Never.Agnieszka Ewa Ziólkowska, vice-chairman of Efling.Published on frettabladid.is 29.09.2020