The Icelandic government met last night and agreed to put a bill to parliament that would postpone ongoing strike action by specific member organizations of the BHM umbrella organization of academics, and the Icelandic nurses, until July 1.
Neither Ólafur G. Skúlason, head of the Association of Icelandic Nurses, nor Þórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir, head of BHM, knew about the government meeting.
The bill would force the specified groups to stop striking, and ban them from striking again until July 1. In the meantime, it requests parties involved to reach a new wage deal that everybody can be happy with; otherwise the contract dispute will go to arbitration. The bill has now been sent to both coalition parties’ parliamentarians to read, and will be put to the Alþingi parliament as soon as possible.
The leader of the nurses told RÚV that the government’s decision is a disappointment. He has great fears for the future of the health service; not least based on discussions nurses are having in closed groups on social media. He says they are taking the news badly and that many could resign.
The government cannot ban the unions from striking, but it does have the power to postpone strike action. Hospitals are at breaking point, with most non-emergencies being turned away. The healthcare system will enjoy the relief of getting key workers back—but at what cost, they ask?