Ingólfur and the strike
Efling staff have repeatedly been subjected to harassment by Ingólfur Haraldsson, the hotel manager of Hilton Nordica, in their dealings with the hotel in recent weeks. He has responded to reasonable requests with rudeness and today laid hands on a union staffer.
Today, one of six pickets of hotel workers on strike was to depart from Nordica, which is part of the international Hilton chain. Ingólfur greeted the group and told them to get off the hotel property. The bus driveway had to be clear, he told representatives of the union, and said it was “none of your business” when it was pointed out that bus drivers were on strike.
“This is not the first time that he uses this tone when talking to us,” says Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, head of Efling. “On the first day of voting for our maids’ strike, we announced our arrival at the hotel and got permission for it. When we arrived, he told us that we’d have to come after the shift ended. So we did, following his instructions exactly, arriving at the staff exit at four. We were lazing there and he sort of milling about. He was rude to his staff, who wanted to vote, and to us. He was very uncooperative. We witnessed him denigrating his own employees.”
“He told one of his employees, who was sitting there and smoking, that he was lazy,” says Valgerður Árnadóttir, from the Efling organizing division. “But that guy just took it easy, as if he was used to this kind of talk, just sat there and smoked.”
“We thought it was pretty cool of the employee,” Sólveig Anna adds. “But when we started, and the staff, mostly women from abroad, started voting, Ingólfur descended on the scene, pulled out his phone and prepared to photograph people filling in their ballots. I just positioned myself in front of his phone to prevent him from taking photos, and made it clear that he could not photograph people in the midst of voting. He laid off, but continued hurling some tedious drivel at us.”
At noon today, another picket was leaving Hilton. The office manager of Efling, Berglind Rós Gunnarsdóttir, drove some signs there for the picketers to carry. “Ingólfur came to us very agitated,” Berglind says, “and commands us to leave the site. I told him we were only stopping for a minute to hand people signs. When I open the trunk to allow people to get them, he slams the door shut. Then he does it again a couple of times. I told him that I was aware that he wasn’t happy with his staff’s struggle for their rights, but that this wouldn’t take any time at all. We weren’t in anyone’s way and weren’t blocking anything. When he didn’t relent I proposed that he call the police.”
Valgerður, who was picket captain, says that Ingólfur then left for a while. “I actually hoped that he was calling the police, so we would have witnesses for this behaviour.”
Finally the picket started. “Then he comes out yet again,” Valgerður says, “and told us that he had already said we should leave. I reply that we had been heading off, but maybe we should have the picket at Hilton for a while as a response to his conduct. Then he sort of pushes me.”
Berglind says she is astonished at the hotel manager’s conduct. “It really makes you think. If this is how he treats union staff, how does he treat his own employees?”
Viðar Þorsteinsson, managing director of Efling, says that behaviour of this sort will not be tolerated. “We take it very seriously when hands are laid on union staff. We will go over this and decide whether we should file a complaint about the conduct of Ingólfur to the Hilton chain.”