When is a toilet not a toilet? On the SA’s lawsuits
The employers’ association, SA, has again issued a lawsuit against strikes called by Efling. This time, the lawsuit targets mild workplace actions in hotels and bus companies. The actions were planned with workers in the relevant industries, and are designed to put pressure on employers without crippling the workplaces.
Efling is calling these strikes after long-winded negotiations, where our demands for a living wage were rejected. Instead, the SA has drawn out the talks by introducing unprecedented proposals to change the working time, which would have led to the breaking down of overtime pay and regular working hours.
The strikes that Efling is now proposing are partly regular strikes, where workers don’t come to work at specified times – from a few hours up to a few days at a time. Such strikes can cause a lot of harm in the hotel industry, which is why other strike proposals were also put forward which would only shut down a few tasks at the job, for example cleaning toilets or doing laundry. This puts pressure on bosses, who have to either do these tasks themselves or receive complaints from guests. In any case, the hotels would still be operational.
These strikes will also draw a line in the sand. Employees in hotels and bus companies are often ordered to do jobs that are in no way part of their job description, as their boss pleases. This can be tiring, sometimes it can be outright humiliating. This is why workers decided to have a simple condition at work during these strikes: People would only do the tasks listed in their job description. Other work, like cleaning the car, which has been loaded onto bus drivers in recent years, will not be done while the wages don’t reflect this increased workload.
The maids’ strike in hotels on March 8, which the SA also tried to get banned in court, demonstrated the obvious truth that hotels without workers don’t produce profits. Instead of seeing calls to strike as an incentive to come to the negotiating table, the association of employers has now repeatedly gone to court with the strike proposals to have them ruled illegal. All methods are used, and the strangest arguments made, to bring down the strikes on quibbles and technicalities. In the most recent lawsuit, for instance, the SA makes public its philosophical position on the cleaning of toilets:
It is the plaintiff’s opinion that the cleaning of toilets can not be separated from other cleaning in the bathroom.
The same goes for laundry service. The SA says that it’s “unclear what it means for an employee not to attend to laundry.” This is the kind of argument you’d expect from a defiant teenager, not the representatives of Icelandic industry.
Halldór Benjamín Þorbergsson, the CEO of SA, said that these strike proposals were “marking a sharp and indefensible break in the development of the right to strike and its use.” On the contrary. These strikes are a responsible way to strengthen the negotiating position and self-respect of workers, both at in collective bargaining and at the workplace, without crippling the tourist industry.