Icelandic nurses latest to strike over pay as economy recovers

by Reuters
Monday, 19 May 2014 20:47 GMT

REYKJAVIK, May 19 (Reuters) - Nurses in Iceland held their second one-day pay strike in a week on Monday, the latest in a series of public sector stoppages seeking better pay and conditions after years of austerity.

Iceland's economy has been picking up pace over the last couple of years after a severe contraction in 2009 and 2010, when the government cut wages and spending after the banking sector collapsed in 2008 in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Around 500 nurses from the Icelandic Nurses' Association and the Union of Public Servants (SFR) were on strike on Monday, said Kristin Gudmundsdottir, head of the Nurses' Association.

The nurses are calling for pay and conditions comparable to those of civil servants, and plan to continue their one-day strikes until their demands are met.

Thorolfur Matthiasson, economics professor at the University of Iceland, said public sector workers in particular felt that their salaries had lagged behind improvements in the economy and private sector wages, especially in the export sector.

"The government has made promises that people's spending power would increase quite fast," he said.

Last week, Iceland's government banned a pay strike by pilots.

Primary school teachers have threatened to go on strike on Wednesday for the second time in a week.

Hulda Maria Magnusdottir, a teacher in Reykjavik, said the low wages made it unattractive to enter the profession.

"In the spring there were 20 people who graduated as teachers from university, but in Reykjavík alone there are 50 positions being advertised," she said.

"The wages are clearly scaring people off." (Reporting by Robert Robertsson; Editing by Simon Johnson and Kevin Liffey)

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