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Whaling Company Bars Employees from Union

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Whaling Company Bars Employees from Union

Whaling boats Reykjavík

Whaling boats in Reykjavík. Photo: Páll Stefánsson

Whaling company Hvalur hf. has forbidden their employees from holding membership in the Akranes Trade Union (VLFA), RÚV reports. Vilhjálmur Birgisson, chairman of the union, confirmed as much in a Facebook post yesterday.

Hvalur hf. began whaling operations yesterday after a two-year hiatus. “When employees came to a meeting with Hvalur hf. representatives this morning they were informed that no one could be in the Akranes Trade Union, rather everyone had to be a member of Stéttarfélag Vesturlands [The Union of West Iceland], despite the fact that the working location of Hvalur in Hvalfjörður is within the union area of Akranes Trade Union,” Vilhjálmur wrote yesterday on Facebook.

Vilhjálmur says this was done “to attempt to punish the Akranes Trade Union by preventing employees from being in VLFA because the Akranes Trade Union fulfilled its legal obligations to ensure and safeguard the rights of its members.”

On June 14, the Supreme Court of Iceland made a ruling on a case the union filed against Hvalur hf. on behalf of one of its employees. The whaling company was sentenced to pay the employee over ISK 500 000 ($4 500/€3 900) due to breaking the collective agreement. Vilhjálmur says the ruling has precedence for all employees who worked for the company between 2013 and 2015 and could mean up to ISK 300 million ($2.7m/€2.4m) in compensation payouts from Hvalur.

Akranes Trade Union’s lawyer has sent Hvalur hf. a letter where “these completely illegal measures are strongly opposed,” Vilhjálmur’s post reads. He adds that the actions of Hvalur hf.’s representatives will be met “with full severity.”

The union will also request the SA Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise intervene in the matter.

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