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Steaks and Summer Holidays (JB)

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Júlíana Björnsdóttir's picture

It’s safe to say that these last months in Iceland have been turbulent in just about every aspect. It’s not just horrible weather but also an underlying chaos that is slowly rising to the surface, like the lava that rose to the surface in the last volcanic eruption.

The fear that additional strikes may close down air traffic, shopping aisles, restaurants and tour operators, among many other areas, is overwhelming.

On June 6, Icelandic society may be paralyzed by a tsunami of strikes that will limit access to food, transport and even the thing we love the most, bureaucracy.

My union is scheduling a full-blown strike if the majority votes in favor of it and all members of the union are expected to honor the strike.

That would include me. Seeing that I’m lucky to have a job I love and in which I feel my efforts are being appreciated, the idea of striking is not exciting to me.

It took me two years to find this job and 18 months in, I still look forward to going to work and spend the day with my team. I wish this was the case for every single worker in Iceland.

The strike is scheduled to commence five days before a holiday I’ve booked to Greece with my husband, a holiday that will be his first to Athens and the Greek isles, and my first return to Greece in a decade.

This is our dream holiday. We’ve planned it in detail and booked our accommodation on every island and in the historical monument that is Athens city. Now we might not be able to fly out as scheduled as strikes are set to affect air travel.

It’s selfish to focus on this aspect. But it’s human nature to look at a problem from the mirror reflection of our existence.

We worry about not having poultry and other meat for our barbecue. And yes, about our holiday plans.

But in the greater scheme of things, that’s merely a side effect. We don’t have barbecues or go on holiday on a daily basis.

I’m not an economist or a scholar trained in mathematical calculations. I cannot predict the economical outcome of what it means to raise the salary of the lowest paid members of the work force. Nor can I predict what it will mean to raise the salaries of nurses, midwives and other state-employed workers who have a university degree in a job that requires it.

All I know is that the closer we get to June 6, the more worried I get—and I’m certainly not the only one. This is a situation that requires action to be taken, finding a way to keep the inflation down and yet improve the quality of life for the people who need it.

Working a difficult job for a minimum wage is not acceptable, even if you enjoy doing that job. It’s not okay that people are forced to work two or three jobs to make ends meet.

What’s fair is that people can earn enough to make a decent living working one job. Maybe even a decent enough living to go on holiday with the family and buy quality meat and poultry.

Wages are becoming the very thing that is creating a gap between people. Politicians and those negotiating with the unions on their behalf must be careful not to turn doctors and teachers, who’ve already negotiated their raise, into the enemy.

Frustration and rage and the grouping of individual professions and interest groups is not the way to negotiate peace. We need to find a way, a mutual agreement that suits all.

After the wage dispute is resolved, it would also be an idea to be a little nicer to one another, not to bicker or fight and have respect for different opinions.

We all deserve a steak and a plane ride every now and then, don’t we? So, let’s do our best to make that happen.

Júlíana Björnsdóttir – julianabjornsdottir(at)gmail.com

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.