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..

Thursday 22 December 2016

Iceland's fishing workers vote and strike again

Iceland's fishing workers have voted again to reject the deal negotiated between the employers' association of fisheries companies, SFS and the unions in Sjómannasamband Íslands.

On a 67.7 percent turnout—743 of the 1,098 members of Sjómannasamband Íslands eligible to vote, over 75 percent (562 members) voted to reject the deal. Some 23.82 percent—177 voted to accept it and the indefinite strike restarted from 8pm, 14 December.

The issues at stake include crew levels, the cost of work clothing, holidays, accident and sick pay, the price paid for the sailors' share of the catch and the amount of the value of the catch that the employers are able to keep to cover fuel costs. And the trawler owners do not want to pay for the workers to travel home when they land away from their home port.

The next negotiation meeting is expected to be on 5 January 2017. 

If the strike were to continue, fish workers in factories in Iceland and the Westman Islands could be laid off, although they will be able to get unemployment benefit to tide them over. 

But the factory workers and the fishers have the same interests against the owners/employers, because their work is the source of all the profit made by the fisheries companies from fish on the world market. We should remember just how rich their work makes the owners, as I noted in an earlier post
An article published in Iceland last month says that Þorsteinn Már and his and his ex-wife Helga S. Guðmundsdóttir have been paid some 3.5 billion ISK over the last six years from the company Steinn Ehf. which holds their shares in Samherji..this amounts to nearly 6.5 percent of last year's budget for the National Hospital in Reykjavik..or the wages of 13,500 people on the minimum wage in 2016.
So it would be in the interests of both the fishers and the fish factory workers for the factory unions to ballot and the workers to come out on strike in solidarity with the sailors and to improve their own pay and conditions.

Anything is possible. Solidarity and victory to the strikers. Áfram sjómenn!