The public sector

Trade unions and associations in the public sector have the right to declare a strike. This right is however subject to some exemptions. Article 19 of the CAPS Act stipulates which civil servants do not have the right to strike. These employees can be divided into three groups.

The first group consists of appointed civil servants and other public servants whose employment terms are subject to the Senior Civil Servants’ Salary Board (Kjararáð). They do not have the right to strike or a right of collective bargaining. The second group entails an exhaustive list of public employees who do not have the right to strike. They are employees of Parliament and its institutions as well as employees at the office of the President of Iceland and employees of the Government Office, including employees of the Foreign Service, all employees of the Supreme and District Courts and lastly employees in the office of Public Prosecutions and the State Attorney’s office (Art. 2-4). Under the scope of the third group fall employees who work with security and basic health services (Art. 5), managers, clerks, engineers, office managers and staff payroll division of local city and municipal authorities (Art. 6), heads of major business and local service organizations (Art. 7) and lastly, (Art. 8) refers to employees whose work is compatible with those mentioned in articles 6 and 7. The Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs and local authorities, following consultation with the relevant trade unions, are to publish a register which defines the positions which are covered by articles 5-8 of the Act, before February 1 each year. Typically, these registers stipulate f.i. on managerial positions and a number of positions to be filled within the health care system. Controversies and objections to the report are subject to the decision of the Labour Court.

The negotiation committee of the respective trade unions nevertheless negotiates the wages and employment terms of the personnel listed in Art. 2-8, pursuant to Art. 22(1) in the Act. In the event of an impasse, Art. 22(2) of the Act stipulates that for personnel listed in Art. 2-4 and 6-8, the trade union can request that the dispute be referred to arbitration (ísl. gerðardómur), a committee of three members, out of with two are appointed by the parties to the dispute.

The government and local authorities, the employers in the public sector, do not have the right to declare work stoppage such as lock-outs.

A proposal for a work stoppage must state clearly the aim it is intended to achieve, to whom it is specifically intended to apply and when it is planned to implement the stoppage. A work stoppage is only permitted if the decision to call a strike has been taken by secret ballot with the participation of at least 20% of those on voting and/or membership list, and the proposal receives the support of the majority of votes cast. In the public sector the minimum participation is 50%. Secret postal ballot may also be used for a proposal to call a strike, in which case the

  • The public sector

result is considered valid irrespective of the participation rate. According to a recent judgment by the Labour Court, two or more unions, party to the same dispute, cannot jointly vote on a proposal to call a strike.

Formal announcement of work stoppage must be sent to the SCMO and the counterpart with 7 days’ notice in the private sector and 15 days’ notice in the public sector. Competent representatives of the contracting parties in the private sector may at all times cancel a work stoppage. The same parties may postpone a work stoppage that has been called, once or more often, by up to 28 days in total, without the approval of the opposite contracting party, providing that party is informed of the postponement with at least three days' notice. It is furthermore always possible to postpone a work stoppage that has been called, and a work stoppage that is in progress, with the approval of both parties. The CAPS Act is silent in this regard on the right to cancel or postpone a work stoppage.