Herring and Class Struggle

Capitalism came late to Iceland. At the end of the 19th century this large, wind-swept, thinly populated island was made up of small towns, farms and seasonal fishing stations. Then European capitalists saw another Klondike in the herring-rich waters of the north Atlantic..

Monday, 17 October 2016

Fishers and marine engineers in Iceland vote for all out strike

Fishers in the Iceland Seaman's Union, Sjómannasamband Íslands (SSÍ) and Marine Engineers in VM Félag vélstjóra og málmtæknimanna have voted by 90 percent to strike indefinitely.  If their employers, the ship owners don't come up with a better deal the strike is set to begin on 10 November.

The trawler workers are angry that they haven't had a decent deal from their employers in the Association of Fisheries Companies since 2011. Ship owning bosses have been trying to shift the costs of taxes and fuel onto the workers by getting them to accept wage cuts of around 15 percent.

When the ballot ended at noon today, 339 members of VM, the Icelandic Union of Marine Engineers and Metal Technicians had voted, a 71.8 percent turn out. Some 90.8 percent voted to strike with only 26 members voting against.

Fishers in the Iceland Seaman's Union, SSÍ voted by almost 90 percent to strike on a 56 percent turn out.

Do you want a 15 percent pay cut? 

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Icelandic fishing unions heading for all out strike?

This month's issue of British magazine Socialist Review has published my article on the crisis in the British fishing industry under the title, How fishing became a killer issue. Many of the problems described here are blamed on the Commons Fisheries Policies of the European Union (EU) but in Britain's case they have been exacerbated by years of neoliberal government policies and the lack of trade union organisation for ordinary fishers.

Iceland and its fishing industry is not in the European Union and its fishers are unionised but they have still suffered falling wages and are facing more cuts from a new decision agreed in September by the Appeals Committee of Seamen and Fishers, úrskurðarnefndar sjómanna og útvegsmanna.

But union members voted by 66.4 percent to reject this deal that means more wage cuts. The unions, including many in the Association of Seaman's Unions of Iceland, Sjó­manna­sam­band Íslands, (SSÍ) as well as VM Félag vélstjóra og málmtæknimanna, the Icelandic Union of Marine Engineers and Metal Technicians are now balloting on whether to go out on indefinite strike.

Icelandic trawler þerney

The ballot closes at 12 noon on 17 October and if it is agreed then the strike is set to begin on 10 November. The question will then be whether the Icelandic government outlaws the strike as it has done so many times before. If it does, then the workers will either have to put up with falling wages or defy the government, which workers in Iceland have also done before.

Sjómannasamband Íslands announces the strike ballot on its facebook page