Pressure mounts in Icelandic strike

A FRESH attempt could be made to resume talks – probably early next week – to find a solution to the long running Icelandic fishermen’s strike.

Negotiations broke down on Monday last week after the unions declared they were not making progress and decided to leave the meeting.

But Icelandic law dictates that in such a situation the state conciliator must reconvene another meeting within two weeks.

As yet, however, there has been no sign of this happening, with both sides in entrenched positions.

But pressures are mounting, with Icelandic fish processing communities – and foreign workers in particular – suffering serious economic hardship.

While progress has been made on some of the claims, the two sides are still far apart on issues such as restoring tax credits to their pre-2009 level and a reduction in the amount laid aside for fuel costs, which would also boost their pay.

An MP from the Pirate Party is attempting to force through changes in the law which might give the fishermen what they want.

The fishermen claim that their earnings have been badly hit by the rise in the value of the kroner and the fall in the UK pound.

At the moment they are not budging from their claims and have told the unions they intend to stick it out until they are met. A union spokesman said there was absolute solidarity among the crews.

The trawler companies say they cannot afford to meet the union demands as their costs, particularly in relation to fuel, are rising sharply.

With 60 per cent of the country’s fishermen currently on strike (the inshore fleet is not affected), the strike is affecting other parts of the economy, with more than 1,500 fish process workers laid off as a result. And Iceland is fast running out of frozen fish stocks.

Meanwhile, fish wholesalers in Europe said the strike is already hitting their business and they warned that Iceland could lose customers permanently as they seek fish from other sources.

Buyers are now reported to be turning to Norway, which is awash with cod and haddock, and to the likes of Alaska, for supplies.

European retail chains are also said to be doing the same, arguing that shoppers are not much bothered where their fish comes from so long as the quality is there.

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