The Icelandic Minister of Finance and The Union of Icelandic Upper-Secondary Teachers have not reached an agreement regarding teachers’ wages after three months of negotiations. Teachers have passed a vote on going on a strike which will begin on Monday 17 March.
According to the Union, people with university education and working in comparable positions in the public sector have on average wages that are 17 percent higher than that of upper secondary teachers, which also have a considerably lower wages than teachers in neighbouring countries.
“The goal of the vote is not to go on strike, but to put pressure on the negotiations. There is still time to negotiate under normal circumstances.” says Aðalheiður Steingrímsdóttir, chairman of The Union of Upper-Secondary Teachers, in a conversation with Icenews. “Nobody goes on strike for fun, but it is the only tool working people and unions have in this country.”
According to Aðalheiður, the wages for teachers in secondary schools have steadily declined since 2006 in comparison to other positions in the public sector that require a university degree, and now is the time to take a stand. “The matter is not only about wages, but also about about the standard of education we offer students.”
The Icelandic school system has, like many other public services, been suffering from budget cuts in recent years after the impact of the economic crisis. “The schools’ funding and teachers’ wages are closely tied together, and the economic crash took a toll on the schools’ funding. Yet this problem was already present before the crash and it never seemed to be the right time to correct the wages back then either. We must draw the line and that is what we are doing.”