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Nurses in Iceland Sign New Wage Contract

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Nurses in Iceland Sign New Wage Contract

Reykjavík

Landspítali National University Hospital. Photo: Dagbjört Oddný Matthíasdóttir.

Representatives of the Icelandic Nurses’ Association and the Icelandic state signed a new wage contract late last night—after 13 hours of talks—including an 18.6 percent salary increase in four years. Nurses will vote on the new agreement by July 15.

The association’s chair Ólafur Skúlason said this was as far as they could have gotten at this time. “Given the circumstances, we are content with what we have on the table. We would certainly have wanted to achieve more but don’t believe it would have been possible now.”

On RÚV’s Morgunútgáfan radio program this morning, Ólafur explained that nurses had been up against the wall and faced with two options only: on the one had that an arbitration court make a decision on their wages, and on the other that they get to vote on an agreement.

Ólafur elaborated that nurses had set out to achieve certain goals—closing the gender-based salary gap and having the degree of nurses valued as much as other university degrees—but that they had failed; the salary increase of 18.6 percent is similar as what has been offered in the general market, he said.

The first part of the salary increase will be retroactive from May 1, 2015; the second take effect in May 2016; the third in May 2017; and the fourth in May 2018. The contract also includes a one-off payment of ISK 70,000 (USD 529, EUR 471).

Ólafur said the workload is not considered in the contract. However, “in the four years, the working time will be reviewed, as well as the effectiveness of institutional contracts … We are given certain tools which enable us to launch a process [of reassessment].”

The reassessment will include the number of daytime hours and whether they should be given more weight in terms on pay compared to overtime. “We will find out after the voting … whether it is enough for [nurses] to be content,” Ólafur concluded.

A bill was passed at Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, to end the strike among nurses and members of the Association of Academics (BHM) earlier this month, resulting in mass resignations. The wage dispute between BHM and the state is ongoing.

Industrial workers signed an agreement with Business Iceland (SA) yesterday, averting a seven-day strike among 10,500 workers, which would have had wide-reaching consequences. Other unions in the private sector have also signed agreements with SA.

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