The first meeting since talks broke up two weeks ago was held yesterday between Icelandic seamen’s unions and vessel owners. This is now easily the longest-running seamen’s strike ever to take place in Iceland and has been in progress since mid-December when unions’ memberships voted down an agreement that had previously been reached.
State arbitrator Bryndís Hlöðversdóttir was quoted in several media as saying that this has become seriously bogged down, but the work continues. The two sides have been placed under a media ban, with unions and the owners’ federation requested not to discuss the negotiations in the media.
Yesterday’s meeting lasted barely two hours and the arbitrator commented that it has been fruitless and she will call another meeting in two weeks.
There appears to be little will in government circles to take action that could end the strike. Several ministers have ruled out government involvement, stressing that the parties on each side of the dispute are the ones responsible for resolving the situation, so at present there is no end to the strike in sight.
According to a statement by Sjómannasamband Íslands (SSÍ) after talks broke up two weeks ago, agreement on three of the unions’ five demands had been reached, while the owners federation was not prepared to budge on the 30% percentage of catch values that goes direct to the operator before shares are calculated. Unions want this figure reduced to 27%.
Seamen lost a significant tax break that was abolished in 2009 and this has been a sore point ever since. Unions are calling on vessel operators to make up this shortfall, and while the owners claim to support seamen in seeking this from government, they are not prepared to meet this cost themselves.