Why are the negotiations going so slowly?
Halldór Benjamín, the manager of the business association, SA, said on the radio yesterday that the negotiations for new collective agreements were going well with everyone except Efling, and the other unions that referred their negotiations to the state mediator. Why is that? Our comrade Vilhjálmur Birgisson, head of the VLFA union, responds:
This is an interesting statement by the CEO of the employers’ association, saying that negotiations with the SGS union federation and the craft workers’ unions are nearly in the final stages.
Halldór Benjamín, the CEO, admits that the negotiations with us — VLFA, VLFGrv, Efling and VR — have not been as fruitful.
The reason has nothing to do with the fact that these four unions went to the state mediator. The reason is that these unions have completely rejected all ideas from SA about selling away coffee breaks and lengthening daytime hours by stretching the daytime window to 6:00-19:00. SA has also made the demand to lengthen the accounting period for overtime to three months.
This means, in simple words, that workers would have to buy their raises in large part from themselves, by shifting overtime onto daytime. SA also wants the overtime premium to become 66%, instead of what it is now; 80%.
All these ideas have been thoroughly rejected by VLFA, VLFGrv, Efling and VR. Workers are not going to buy their raises from themselves in the ways that SA wants.
I want to repeat that the reason for our negotiations going slower is that we completely reject these ideas. These four unions are not prepared to let SA lead us onto a road of submission and softness, where employees have to sell away their hard-earned rights, fought for in years and decades past, like the obvious human right of coffee breaks for working people.
In the middle of February, we’ll see what the government wants to do to help the negotiations along, and we’ll see how much SA will accept of our demands.
I want to be completely honest about this. I think it’s much more likely that there will be hard strike actions in the beginning of March than that we’ll come to an agreement by that time. This, at least, is my estimate, given the position in negotiations with SA now. I also want to admit that we’ve showed incredible patience. Our hope is that we’ll manage to create an agreement that improves the condition of our members and that all workers can live off their wages, month by month, without sacrificing their human dignity. All, not just some!
We put great emphasis on making the minimum disposable income sufficient to cover the cost of living benchmarks, published by the Ministry of Welfare. Sadly, this is not the case right now, and we will not accept a collective agreement unless we manage to increase the disposable income significantly.