Icelandair pilots are demanding a much bigger pay rise than workers in other sectors have been granted and have rejected a new one year contract with a pay increase of 2.8 percent.
According to the FÍA Icelandic pilots’ association, Icelandair pilots with 15 years’ experience currently have basic monthly wages of around ISK 1 million (USD 8,880/EUR 6,430) and new pilots earn roughly half that amount.
The pilots have voted in favor of industrial action, starting with at 12 hour strike on 9th May.
The FÍA argues its members are entitled to reject a pay offer accepted by general workers in the ASÍ on the grounds that its members are not members of the ASÍ (the Icelandic Confederation of Labor).
An FÍA spokesman told Vísir.is that the negotiating parties are not near to reaching a deal and that the dispute is about various areas of the pilots’ contract, and not just about salary.
It is not clear how many Icelandair pilots abstained in the vote on industrial action, but it is known that none of them voted against the move.
Icelandair is Iceland’s biggest airline and the proposed series of strikes will have a very negative impact on travelers to and from Iceland, as well as the tourism industry in general. However, while an Icelandair strike a decade ago would have left Iceland virtually cut off from the rest of the world, the FÍA spokesman, Hafsteinn Pálsson, points out that there are a variety of other ways into and out of Iceland.
Stranded passengers could choose to travel with the Norröna ferry to Denmark and the Faroe Islands; and other airlines connecting Iceland to destinations in Europe and North America include WOW air, EasyJet, Delta, Norwegian, Air Iceland, Primera and SAS.
Icelandair spokesman Guðjón Arngrímsson said the FÍA comments have been poorly received within the company: “We don’t believe that the chairman is speaking on behalf of all pilots when he recommends people to direct their custom to our competitors”.
Helga Árnadóttir, director of the Icelandic Tourist Industry Association, says the strike will have a severely negative impact on her industry: “We have huge concerns about the proposed strike action. We are predicting that lost revenue will be in the billions per day at this time of year. Every hour in this state of uncertainty is having a great impact.”
There now seems to be little that can stop the strike from going ahead, after the pilots rejected a new one year contract with a 2.8% pay rise. The pilots plan to strike for 12 hours on the 9th, 16th and 20th May.