Efling is a driving force of change – Chairman’s address at the general meeting

Sólveig Anna adresses the meeting [File: Heiða Helgadóttir]

Efling’s resignation from the SGS strengthened the Union’s position contrary to what was claimed. It was obvious to decide on the resignation since Efling is the largest union of workers in Iceland and the second largest union in the country, and therefore right that the Union has a direct membership in the Federation of Labor, ASÍ. 

This is among what Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, chairman of Efling, addressed in her speech at the Union’s general meeting last Thursday. “During the collective bargaining negotiations this winter, what I believed would happen did happen; Efling, with our colleagues in the Breiðfylking, led the talks with the SA. Contrary to what was claimed, Efling’s resignation from SGS has not harmed the Union’s interests; our position is now stronger than before at the level of the federation, as elsewhere,” said Sólveig Anna.

In her speech, Sólveig Anna described Efling’s activities in the past year. She mentioned that after a complicated wage dispute in the winter of 2023, it became clear to Efling’s board that it needed to start preparing for the next negotiations since the agreements reached last year were only for one year. The Union’s board was completely united in its opinion that ASÍ’s unions needed to enter jointly into negotiations for long-term collective agreements on the public market. “We knew it would not be possible to force the government’s intervention unless a large group of unions came together to negotiate. It was obvious after the previous winter’s ridiculous and miserable turn of events.”

Efling member’s will to fight was the key

In preparation for those negotiations, the Union benefited from the unique knowledge of Efling’s expert, Stefán Ólafsson, who looked specifically at the development of the welfare system in recent years and decades. “That review showed that working people had lost tens of thousands a month in tax-free welfare benefits due to politicians’ dismantling and austerity efforts.”

Stefán Ólafsson (left) was watching the meeting closely. Beside him is Garðar Þór Stefánsson, auditor at Deloitte. [File: Heiða Helgadóttir]

With those results in hand, it was possible to form a consensus between the unions of ASÍ, and the so-called Breidfylking of labor unions joint forces.. That approach yielded results, mainly because the government agreed to double welfare spending as a percentage of national output. “We in the negotiation committee of Efling are proud of this result. We know that the fighting spirit of Efling members in recent years was not least what enabled the Breiðfylking to achieve good results against the government,” said Anna Sólveig in her speech. 

Sólveig Anna also pointed out how general and active participation of members is in Efling’s work, for example, 85 members sat in the negotiation committee, where there was a great consensus the whole time. There is also great consensus within the board, attendance at trustee courses has multiplied and the Union’s position is all the more solid. 

“I am proud when I look across the hall and see a large group of wonderful Efling members gathered together. Efling has created the position of being a real driving force of change and progress in Icelandic society. We are on the right track and will continue to follow it,” said Sólveig Anna.

Guests were in good spirits. [File: Heiða Helgadóttir]

Here is a link to Efling’s annual report 2023-2024.