Are these changes necessary?
Yes, in the view of the board of Efling it is necessary to make changes to staffing, division of labor and staff qualification requirements and it is timely to change outdated practices when it comes to employment terms. The changes are intended to strengthen the operations of the union and have been well prepared. Making such changes was part of the platform of the Battle list in the election campaign in February 2022.
Was a mass layoff unavoidable?
Yes. According to Icelandic labor law, the adoption of new employment terms requires the termination of prior employment terms and thereby of the employment contract. Since the employment terms of all staff are being terminated, all employment contracts need to be terminated. Because the changes also consist of changes to jobs (positions being discontinued, new positions being created, qualification requirements for positions changed etc.) and a decrease in the total number of positions it was not possible to offer all staff to maintain their prior job. Rather than hand-picking individuals or negotiating with each person from the group of staff, it was decided to advertise all jobs and encourage staff to apply, which is a professional and reasonable approach.
Is the purpose of the changes to lower the salaries of staff or diminish their rights?
No. The changes will lead to a decrease in the number of positions, but the goal is not to lower the salaries of staff. The goal of the changes is to make the determination of salaries in the office transparent and to decide salaries and other rights for each job in a way that stands up to scrutiny. For this purpose, a new salary system is created and conditions regarding overtime, car allowance, and more are re-determined comprehensively.
How are the rights of staff guaranteed in this process?
The staff of Efling have voted for union reps who guard their rights. They were consulted in the process. They can seek assistance and advice from their unions. Those unions are VR and Efling. Staff who are Efling members are able to seek the same assistance as other members in a similar position with any employer.
I have heard contradictory news about whether or not there was actual consultation with the union reps of staff. What is correct?
Consultation with the union reps of staff took place, as required by the law about mass layoffs. The decision of the board to approve these changes was on the condition of consultation with union reps. The consultation took place in meetings on Monday April 11 and Tuesday April 12 and is recorded in meeting minutes. A lawyer was mandated by the board to handle the consultation.
The consultation produced a resolution which contained an agreement about certain issues in the implementation of layoffs, specifically accommodation regarding the length of severance periods, waiving of work duties during one month of the severance period, and flexibility towards those seeking other jobs.
In the process, the union reps declared their opposition to the organizational changes as is stated in the resolution. Nevertheless the consultation took place and produced an agreement about certain aspects.
Is it correct that staff first heard about a layoff in the media?
The board discussed the changes and approved them, on condition of consultation with the union reps of staff, in its meeting in the afternoon of Monday April 11. The consultation with the union reps began right after the meeting. This consultation is supposed to take place in confidence according to the law. The minority of the board however did not respect this confidentiality and leaked information about the matter to the media, which lead to media reporting as soon as the evening of April 11 while the consultation was still ongoing. Of course it was not the intention to announce the changes to staff in this way. It is very unfortunate that confidence is not respected within the board.
Are the changes a pretense to remove individuals who are disliked by the board from their jobs?
No, the changes are made in order to strengthen the operations of the union and to correct outdated and flawed employment terms. There is no discrimination between staff and the same applies to everyone: all employment contracts are terminated and every staff member is encouraged to apply for a job. A recruiting agency is in charge of new hires in a professional procedure where the qualifications of applicants are what counts.
Isn’t it bad for a union to engage in mass layoffs and hasn’t Efling criticized them in the past?
The board of Efling makes its decisions, including about the running of the office, with the interests of the union and its members in mind. Decisions concerning the staff must of course always be within the boundaries decided by the laws and rules of the labor market.
Even though a mass layoff is a sensitive matter, it has been conducted in a correct and lawful way and the rights of all staff are respected. Efling has criticized group layoffs in cases where employers have done them in order to avoid wage increases for low wage workers required by collective contracts and when stated reasons were a pretense. Efling will continue to offer its staff good and fair employment terms in full accordance with collective contracts and the changes which the layoffs are part of are both necessary and real.
Why was the vice chairman laid off, isn’t she elected as opposed to hired? Will the chairman be laid off as well?
No exception is made to the termination of all employment contracts, including the employment contract of the vice chairman. This has no bearing on her lawful role and appointment as vice chairman. The salaried position of the vice chairman in the office is based on an employment contract and is seperate from her appointment to the position of vice chairman, to which she was selected.
The current chairman also had an employment contract but terminated her employment contract with the union last November and has not signed a new contract since then. If the chairman had not already terminated her employment contract, the mass layoff would also have included her employment contract.
Will service to members be interrupted by these changes?
Since this is an organizational change there is no expectation that staff will leave the workplace. To the contrary, it is assumed that all staff will continue in their positions and be paid salaries until July and possibly permanently if they apply and are re-hired.
It is however possible that there can be temporary delays in services. Part of the assistance provided by a recruiting agency, law firm, and consultant is to ensure as little disruption of services as possible. The board is convinced that changes will be successfully implemented. The long-term goal of the changes is to enable better services for members.
How much do these changes cost?
The board has agreed to cooperate with a recruiting agency, a law firm, and a consultant who will provide assistance with the changes. The combined cost of these purchased services could be up to 25 million ISK, but will depend on the magnitude of work hours. The cost of one month without work duty during the severance period, which was part of the agreement with the union reps of staff, could be around 50 million ISK.
A counterweight to this is that the reduction of salary costs as a result of the change could be close to 120 million ISK per year.
Is it correct that the language requirements of staff are being changed? How will this impact services to foreign members?
Yes, language requirements have changed so that proficiency in both Icelandic and English is expected generally. This is done so that all staff can equally service members in these two languages. Additionally, proficiency in other languages is listed as a benefit in the qualification requirements.
The board approved a special reiteration on April 24 that a requirement for “good competency” does not equal a requirement for full fluency in the language in question. The board also reiterated that language requirements are not intended to disqualify any current staff members from working for the union, and the board asks the recruitment agency to show flexibility in this regard.
The B-list has since 2018 revolutionized the access of foreign members to information and services of the union. It has been a priority to strengthen services in as many of the languages understood by members as possible, and staff have been hired who speak the native languages of Efling members. Of course this path will continue to be followed.