Processors in the disaster-hit Icelandic port of Grindavík have announced staff redundancies. First it was Stakkavík that was left with no option other than to lay off much of its workforce, and now Vísir has followed with more than half of its staff being made redundant.
Stakkavík informed 47 staff more than a week ago that their jobs would be going, as the company’s processing plant has been evaluated as being unusable – one of the numerous buildings in Grindavík that have been left damaged since the region was hit in November last year when the first volcanic activity began.
An eruption of lava just north of the town destroyed three residential buildings earlier this year, but the bulk of the damage has resulted as tremors and fissures opening in the streets and beneath the foundations of buildings have left them unusable – as is the case with Stakkavík’s processing plant – while there have been serious disruptions to the supplies of water, electricity and heating, in addition to access limitations.
Now fishing and processing company Vísir, owned by Icelandic seafood group Síldarvinnslan, has informed 130 of its staff that they are off the payroll and are instead on state support, due to the natural disaster that has hit Grindavík. 60 staff remain at work, including at the company’s saltfish production at two new locations the company has been able to find.
‘The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has stated that the current uncertain situation could continue into the summer of 2024,’ the company stated.
In a letter to staff, managing director Pétur Hafsteinn Pálsson said that staff, managers and owners have experienced a rollercoaster of uncertainty, veering between hope and uncertainty.
‘We are proud of the decision taken at the outset of the disaster to keep everyone on the payroll, even if they couldn’t get to work, or when there was no work to be done. The company has covered all of the travel expenses of those who came in to work, and paid them for their travelling time. This is the kind of outlay that can only be maintained for a certain time. The current government support for companies in our position is at best enough to cover 80% of earnings. There have been two attempts to restart production to rescue product values, without success,’ he said.
Staff have been laid off the payroll and are encouraged to seek the state support to which they are entitled, although he stressed that this does not constitute the end of their employment contracts.
‘When activity resumes in Grindavík, staff will be able to return to work as before. At the moment we do not know when this will be. Like everyone else, we will monitor the hazard level situation and seismic activity. Efforts are being made to ensure the operational viability of the company in these uncertain times and we will apply pressure to the authorities to make it possible for us to continue activity in Grindavík, alongside taking every safety precaution.’