Sólveig Anna optimistic that historic contracts can be made

In the upcoming negotiations concerning the renewal of contracts in the private sector, Efling demands that the public child benefit, interest benefit and housing benefit systems will be restored. Increases in payments from those systems can, to a considerable extent, replace wage increases and are actually more valuable than them, since every króna that goes from these systems to workers pockets is tax-free. Should those demands towards the government be met, together with moderate flat raise wage increases in long-term contracts, a lot will be achieved.

This is the content of Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, the chairman of Efling, statement in a new video which can be seen in this article. In the video Sólveig Anna describes how Efling decided to participate in a large coalition within the Icelandic Confederation of Labor (known in Icelandic as ASÍ), a coalition that represents about 93 percent of ASÍ’s members. The goal is to push for contracts that have a real impact on the conditions of Efling’s members. 

Benefits must increase

Efling made a decision this fall to try to build a large alliance with other unions in ASÍ. Last winter’s negotiations showed that a divided and aimless union movement achieved insufficient results.

In discussions within ASÍ, Sólveig Anna emphasized that contracts needed to be made for long term and with flat rise wage increases, since they ensure the highest proportionally increases for low-wage workers and contribute to a move towards an equal society.

In the discussions within ASÍ this autumn, Efling also argued for a demand to be made for correction of the child benefit, interest benefit and housing benefit systems. The amounts of the benefits are too low and their reduction limits are also too low.

“The value of all these benefits is very high, because they are tax free, unlike our wages,” Sólveig Anna says. Increases in payments from these systems can replace wage increases to a significant extent.

Lowering inflation is a matter of great importance

Sólveig Anna says that Efling also placed the bet on that the government would be ready to take such measures, in exchange for collective bargaining that would support coordinated actions against inflation. In that context, it is very important that Efling pushes for flat raise contracts. Such contracts decrease the changes of runaway wage drift among the highest paid and thus economic overheating and inflation.

“We envisoned that by putting forward a solid and plausible plan we could be looking at a situation where inflation could go down relatively fast. That, in turn, would make it possible for the Central bank to lower interest rates. All of us that have mortage payments and have seen those payments skyrocket with the current high interest rates understand the importance of lowering interest rates as fast as possible,” Sólveig Anna says.

Positive feedback

The result from hefty negotiations within ASÍ last fall was that Efling, VR, SGS, Samiðn and LÍV agreed to work together on a collective agreement with these demands. In addition to said demands, it is required that improvements be made in condition of renters and that the contracts contain strict provisions on the reduction of inflation and interest rates. The importance of the fact that these five associations have formed a broad coalition is significant, as it greatly increases the chances that it will be possible to successfully achieve demands to SA (the Confederation of Employers) and the government.

The first negotiation meeting with SA took place late December. At that meeting, a positive tone was immediately struck by agreeing to a joint statement calling for the restraint of price increases and fee raises. Sólveig Anna also says that it soon became clear that the SA were likely to support the proposals of the alliance unions.

The alliance has already met with the government, where its proposals for the state’s involvement were presented. That meeting, like others of late, was positive and gave reason for optimism.

Members of Efling are indispensable

“I know that one of the main reasons we have come to this place is the great perseverance, patience and courage that Efling members have shown, and the will to fight united for better living conditions. I know that our negotiators and the ASÍ today respect the views and opinions of Efling and members of Efling. I sense it in communication and sense it in meetings. And, of course, it’s all thanks to you, dear Efling members, who have worked so hard,” Sólveig Anna said in her statement.

The next negotiation meeting of the alliance unions with SA will be held today and tomorrow there will be another meeting between Efling’s negotiation committee and SA regarding Eflings special demands.

Sólveig Anna will continue to keep members of Efling informed about the progress, main issues and progress of the negotiations with videos like this one. She encourages all members of Efling to send questions to her email address, solveiganna@efling.is, and she will do her best to answer them in the next video.

“I look forward to seeing what happens here in the coming days and weeks,” Sólveig Anna concludes.