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Industrial unionism

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Last year the flight attendants were fired by in the middle of negotiations for a new collective agreement, in a blatant disregard by Icelandair for Icelandic labour law. They planned to go on strike in response and in an act of complete lack of solidarity the pilot and their union (FÍA) openly planned to break the strike and take on the tasks of the flight attendants (also not legal under Icelandic labour law, but it seems to have lost all it's meaning anyway). If you want to know more about the whole Icelandair saga from last year (and the insane amount of taxpayer money going their way in form of loans by the government), you can watch my video on it here.

The CEO of Icelandair has been chosen the businessman of the year 2020 by the Icelandic economic newspaper. Because if you rely on government handouts for your business to survive and break Icelandic labour law, you are an example to follow, I guess. For the pilots, helping to undermine labour law did not turn out so great. The pilot union was negotiating a new collective agreement with Bláfugl (a cargo airline) in December, when all the pilots employed as wage employees were fired and told that from next year on Bláfugl was only going to hire contractors. The firings were legal this time, as the old collective agreement was still in place, but the pattern of union busting is clear (a similar approach had already been used by tour bus companies since 2019, but they mainly employ foreigners, so nobody cared).

The legal system seems ill equipped to handle these cases, ASÍ (confederation of unions) did not want to pursue Icelandair in court, and for FÍA there does not seem to be a legal way to stop employers from forcing workers to work as contractors, even if they are clearly only seemingly self employed. We increasingly see employers pit different group of workers against each other, pilots against flight attendants, wage employees against contractors and it has weakened the labour movement immensely in the last two years alone. Here is a case to be made for organizing industrially, instead of each union just focusing on their one small group of workers. And one inspiring example of industrial unionizing has just sprung up, at Google of all places.

Alphabet Workers Union is an industrial union. They do not only organize full time employees, but also temporary employees, vendors, and contractors. They understand that the power of the union comes directly from the ability of workers at the workplace to organize and control the means of production. Their explicit goal, as a union, is not only to negotiate wages every few years, but to give workers control over their workplace. And even before they became an official union they have had immense successes, all of which can be found here.

Icelandic unions are stuck in the trade union system of the 1990s, where the only role of the union is to negotiate a collective agreement. They reduced organizing and control over workplaces in return for institutional and political legitimacy. Icelandic employers have learned to undermine this system, the cases of Icelandair and FÍA are just an escalation of developments in the past 10 years, developments we foreigners have felt for the longest time, being the canary in the coal mine due to our vulnerable position in Icelandic society. Fortunately for Iceland, foreign unions, who have had to react and adapt to union busting for a much longer time, have found ways to use the basic building blocks of unionizing to regain control. All we have to do is learn from their example.

Organize! Organize! Organize!


Blacklist project frustration

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I spent a big amount of my time this spring creating a blacklist website for my union. It is stuck in limbo now because basically this:



It is just frustrating when you try to do something and people think it's ok to be shitty to you. Anyone who has experience with threat modeling and wants to help let me know.
Posted on - Categories: IWW


Strike - update

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Another day - another protest. Me and my fellow workers were back in front of parliament last Friday. This was the 3rd time in 2 weeks that we were protesting after 10 days of ongoing strike actions and stalled negotiations. The government, who had refused to negotiate with its workers before the negotiations in the private sector were over and then had refused to consider any collective agreement, but a carbon copy of the one of the private sector, finally decided to do what it wanted to do in the first place and created a law to take our right to strike away.

Wages in the public sector are lower than in the private sector for people with university degrees. Furthermore public institutions are not flexible enough in their financial management to be able to offer competitive prices.
Healthcare workers in the other Scandinavian countries have a much higher purchase power than in Iceland. As it is easy to get a license in any Scandinavian country with an Icelandic degree the brain drain has been enormous. After the ham-handed way the government handed the negotiations with the workers, even more are thinking of moving abroad, especially nurses, which means the decreased services which had endangered patients well being during the strike is probably going to become the norm in Iceland.

Maybe it is just another move in the continuing effort of the current government to dismantle the public healthcare system.

As a supporter of industrial unionism it was encouraging to see my union BHM to stand in solidarity with the Nurses Union. As workers of the same industry our concerns and demands aligned and we did not let us be played against each other but stood together in solidarity. I also experienced a lot of support at work from other health care workers who did not to belong to our union. The general opinion seemed to be that it is an issue of a struggling healthcare system and that it is in danger of losing an important part of the workforce if working conditions do not improve.


Posted on - Categories: Politics IWW


Health care in Iceland

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The administrators of Expat-Blog asked in the Forum to write some information about the Icelandic Health Care system. Considering I'm working in it, I decided to answer.

The health care system in Iceland is a NHS style system, which means everyone is covered by the Icelandic Health Insurance, which is financed via taxes.
There is no private system to speak of, but the current government is working hard on changing that, crippling the public health care system while a private hospital is planned to be built.

Immigrants who have been legally residing in Iceland for 6 month are automatically covered. If one is from an EEA country can get coverage via the European Health Insurance Card or is insured directly if one has been insuread/resided in one of the EEA member states 6 month previously. One has to request form E104 (or form E106/E109/E121) from their previous insurance provider and submit it to the Icelandic Health Insurance.
For none Europeans see here.

Even for insured patients there are quite a lot of out of pocket payments, for example for interventions, such as physiotherapy, psychological care or medication (often even for life threatening or chronic conditions, such as heart medication or cancer). The out of pocket payments are paid up to a certain amount, after which the insurance will pay a higher percentage or all. The out of pocket payments for medicine can be up to 62.000kr (425kr) in a 12 month period.
For one physiotherapy session alone one can expect to pay around 4000kr (25€) out of pocket.

Dental care is not covered by the Icelandic Health Insurance.

This is where the trade unions come in. Almost everyone (85%) who is employed is in a union. They play an important part in the social security system, offering financial support for holiday, education and healthcare. Unions will often refund part or all of the out of pocket payments for medication, dental care or therapies. They also have sick day funds for after sick pay rights expire (even for sick spouses or kids!) and disability funds.
See the these two links as an example: http://vr.is/english/sick-payfund/ http://vr.is/english/grants/
One can find out which union you belong to by checking your working contract or your payslip (union dues are taken automatically from the wages)


First of May

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This was actually my first May Day parade ever. Where I was from in Germany we were too busy trying to catch boyfriends or admirers setting up birch trees in front of our house and pouring water over them. Really, this is a thing: http://www.dw.de/in-germany-say-i-love-you-with-a-birch/a-16772753

Yes, not very revolutionary, but am making up for it now...

Walking in the parade:


IWW members rousing the rabble (and waving red flags with the black cat on it):

Posted on - Categories: IWW


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