Greyline boss: employees will earn more, work shorter hours, spend more time with their families

Published by Efling on

In a statement published on Vísir, Þórir Garðarsson, a board member for Greyline, one of the largest tourism companies in Iceland, describes how “flexibilization” of working time will lead to greater freedom from work, better rates and shorter working hours. He claims that the last summer brought a real tourist boom, and that there is more work than ever for the sector. Yet, we work longer and harder, which necessitates Þórir  to craft a simple explanation: Icelandic society is changing and we have to keep up with these changes!

In his opinion, legal regulations do not match our “modern” time. As I understand it, this means a time when employees “decide” themselves that they want to work in an unregulated environment and count on bonuses instead of legally fixed hourly rates for a liveable income. In this supposed bright future, bonuses will be distributed fairly, always in accordance with the impartial judgment of managers; never only for friends, never late and in generous amounts. Þórir believes that the existing regulations of collective agreements are the cause of low earnings in the service sector.

He just can not pay more, even though he so wants to!

Of course, Þórir, as an employer, does not see the need for legal regulations concerning working hours. He can assess everything and arrange so that we, not him, and not the company, are in the best position. Who needs legal protections, if you just can ask nicely for changes?

As we learn from his statements: today, society is “completely different”. We live in times of “flexible employment.” We all like to constantly adjust our lives to catch a few extra hours of work, to wait impatiently for a new schedule, to finish work on a computer at home after putting the children to bed. Everything is different, people’s stomachs are different, and sleep is a relic of the old times. We like to eat dinner at 9:00 pm, because we were at work all day. We like to ask friends to take care of children after school because we unexpectedly finish work by 7 pm. We like to have a “flexible schedule”, because Þórir will adjust our schedule so that we can stay with relatives, go on a trip, just relax, or spend time on our personal projects, and our passions. All this for us, but some people are still complaining. They want to live in the past, where fixed working hours and specific rates apply. In the past, where hard work after hours was paid fairly, and where, if we wanted or needed to take care of our home and family, or to implement our plans and ambitions, we had time. Such was life, right? Indeed, such times are becoming more and more of a thing of the past.

Deregulation of working conditions is a gold mine.

We are responsible for the system in which we work. The changes proposed by Þórir are an attempt to force mature people into the position of children who have to ask for everything. Employers want to normalize exploitative practices on the labor market, which in the service sector most often affect young people and immigrants. The disappointed and hopeless Icelandic youth and immigrants (who often do not know their rights, are happy to be able to work, and live in Iceland at all) are groups strongly represented in this sector. The thought borne in the minds of businessmen is simple and wonderful: we treat these people like machines, and nobody can do anything about it. Maybe we should treat everyone in Iceland like this?

Simple observation, simple conclusion.

As the director of SA, the Icelandic Confederation of Labor, and the head of the Central Bank of Iceland, Már Guðmundsson, who also claims he’s fighting for our welfare, stated: demands to maintain and expand regulation and the setting of a minimum wage at a level allowing people to meet basic needs will cause a gigantic crisis. Against his intention, he said something correct. In a situation where workers cannot have any expectations about the conditions of their work, employers’ profits are increased by cutting labor costs, and lower-level managers are forced to craft bad, and sometimes illegal, solutions. This is a crisis that has so far been silenced. All employees have similar problems, and all who cannot solve them by themselves are frustrated. These problems may turn into an explicit crisis as people start to realize that it is not a coincidence, or an “unpleasant reality” but a result of intentional action. Only after such a crisis can one expect a real change for the better. SA’s proposals regarding the “flexibilization” of the hourly workload and rates were firmly rejected by the Efling trade union, which does not mean that the idea was abandoned. These are not just blanks shot by SA, as some people say to  comfort themselves. This is the main goal of big business owners, because with low wages for employees, one can make a fortune. Our low salaries and poor working conditions are their short-term profit. The deterioration of working conditions in the service sector is a perfect example of this. Any króna that does not go into the employee’s pocket turns into company profit. If somebody naively believes that “flexibilization” at work is for the worker’s convenience, let them look at the negotiation proposals of SA, their attitude towards strike votes, or the government’s tragic proposal also rejected by the unions. These are not proposals geared towards Iceland’s sustainable development, nor a compromise between employees and employers; these are proposals for deregulation, intended to increase the profits of private enterprises at the expense of their employees.

In their future, our lives outside of work are only a distraction  from an unpredictable work schedule, and where life itself takes place only during breaks from work, which never leaves our thoughts, or provides any joy and fulfillment.

Eliasz Robakiewicz