Maxim Baru var gerður að sviðsstjóra nýstofnaðs félagssvið Eflingar árið 2018. Í tilkynningu Eflingar á sínum tíma segir að sviðinu hafi verið ætlað að blása nýju lífi í herskáa stéttabaráttu.
Hann segir hlutverk sitt hafa verið að endurbyggja trúnaðarmannakerfi stéttarfélagsins, skipuleggja nefndir félagsmanna, hefja samtal við félagsmenn sem eru innflytjendur og að skipuleggja fyrsta fjöldaverkfallið í marga áratugi.
Þá segir hann hlutverk sitt einnig hafa verið að veita stjórnendum félagsins ráð til þess að ná markmiði þeirra um að umbylta félaginu úr offjármagnaðri og útlendingafælinni annars flokks lögfræðiráðgjöf yfir í herskátt verkalýðsfélag með öfluga og virka félagsmenn.
Brottrekstur erlendra starfsmanna
Maxim segir að í kjölfar þess að stéttarfélög landsins sömdu við Samtök Atvinnulífsins í óþökk Sólveigar Önnu árið 2019 hafi hún hafið leit innan Eflingar að óvinum til að skella sökinni á.
„Niðurstaða þess var brottrekstur nánast alls erlends starfsliðs Eflingar, byrjað var á mér,“ segir Maxim.
Sumir meðlimir Eflingar hafi lýst atburðarásinni sem fylgdi sem óvæginni herferð Sólveigar Önnu, Viðars og Berglindar Rósar, þáverandi skrifstofustjóra Eflingar. Markmið þeirra hafi verið að losa sig við fyrrum stuðningsmenn sína meðal starfsfólks og yfirmanna félagsins. Þau hafi beitt lítillækkun, einelti, áreitni og aðferðum sem lyktuðu af útlendingaandúð.
Maxim segir að afsögn Sólveigar Önnu sé fyrirséð niðurstaða þess hegðunarmynsturs sem hún hafi fylgt síðustu fjögur ár. Afsögn hennar skilji Eflingu eftir stjórnlausa þar sem tilraunir þeirra til að koma á almennilegum stjórnarháttum innan félagsins hafi mistekist.
Hann segir hvert skref þessarar sorgarsögu valda sér miklum vonbrigðum og muni að öllum líkindum leiða til þess að meðlimir Eflingar og íslenska þjóðin verði verr sett en áður.
Hann búist við því að arftaki Sólveiga Önnu muni stýra félaginu til fyrra horfs sem afturhaldssamt félag sem er hliðhollt atvinnurekendum og haldið útlendingaandúð.
Beri ábyrgð en sé samt vorkunn
Maxim segir að þrátt fyrir að Sólveig Anna og félagar beri ábyrgð á gjörðum sínum þá sé þeim ákveðin vorkunn vegna þess að í valdatíð Sólveigar hafi þau staðið frammi fyrir miklu áreiti, einelti og utanaðkomandi áhrifum.
Það hafi eðlilega leitt til ofsóknarbrjálæðis Sólveigar og látið hana sjá óvini í hverju horni.
Þá hafi Sólveig Anna fengið yfir sig holskeflu kvenfyrirlitningar og persónulegra árása í fjölmiðlum sem Maxim segir vera í eigu vellauðugra elítumanna. Þeir hafi haft ástæður til að kæfa verkalýðsbyltingu strax í fæðingu.
Þrátt fyrir það skuldi þau félögum Eflingar afsökunarbeiðni.
Ekki hefur náðst í Sólveigu Önnu við vinnslu fréttarinnar.
Yfirlýsingu Maxims Baru á ensku má lesa hér að neðan í heild sinni:
Former Head of Labour Organizing At Efling Comments On Latest Labour Troubles at Union Resignation of Efling Union Chair Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir and CEO Vidar Thorsteinsson
Inevitable Conclusion to Troubled Tenure
Montreal, Canada — On Monday November 1st, 2021
Efling Union Chair Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir and her top aide, CEO Vidar Thorsteinsson, announced their resignations, following what Sólveig Anna described as a vote of no confidence by the union’s staff.
Maxim Baru, former Head of Efling Union’s Organizing Division (Felagssvid) 2018-2019 says:
“This episode concludes a 4-year saga in which Sólveig, Vidar, and former Head of Office Berglind Rós Gunnarsdóttir went to war on their own staff and allies, beginning with their foreign colleagues.
In October 2018, I was brought on the Efling Union staff as Head of Labour Organizing by what was at the time a new Executive.
My role, as an experienced union organizer and membership mobilizer, was to rebuild the union’s shop steward system, organize the base into workplace committees, engage the union’s immigrant members, and prepare the first mass strike in decades. My role included providing the leadership with advice and organizational tools to meet their goal of transforming what had become an overfunded, xenophobic, second-rate legal aid clinic into a combative labour union with an active and engaged membership.
While the historic popular mobilization and subsequent strike in the hospitality sector during 2018-2019 have received widespread coverage, what has received less attention is the inside story of the strike’s final hours and its immediate aftermath.
In those final days as the coalition of unions engaged in Collective Bargaining prepared to concede to the Employers Confederation (Samtök atvinnulífsins), the Efling leader’s attention turned inwards. As pressure ratcheted up, and her union allies withdrew support, Sólveig began a hunt for internal enemies to blame. The result was the termination of virtually the entire staff of foreign origin, begining with my own.
What followed has been described by some members as a scorched-earth campaign by Sólveig, Vidar, and Berglind Rós to amputate their former allies on the staff and on the Executive through belittling, bullying, liabling, and harassing them with every xenophic tactic at their disposal.
Now, some 4 years later this pattern of behaviour has led to its sad and predictable conclusion: Sólveig’s resignation after what she referred to as a vote of no confidence by the union’s staff. This leaves the union rudderless after a complete failure to establish the kind authentic membership control of the union we were endeavouring to establish at the outset.
Every step in this sordid story is very disappointing and will, in all probability, serve to harm the membership of Efling Union, and the Icelandic population. I anticipate that whoever succeeds Sólveig & Co. is likely to take the union backwards to the regressive, pro-employer, anti-immigrant attitudes that predominated before her election.
Despite their actions, for which they bear full moral responsibility, Sólveig & Co. faced enormous amounts of harassment, bullying, and manipulation that inevitably fueled a self-destructive paranoia which inclined her to see enemies around every corner.
In the lead-up to her election to the Board and throughout her tenure, Sólveig faced a tsunami of sexism and character assination in the mainstream press, a press that is owned by a club of wealthy elites that had every incentive to smother a union revolution in its infancy.
In addition to the important and necessary realignment Sólveig brought about to Efling’s priorities, she initiated the kind of changes in structure and staffing that were necessary for any workers’ organization that wished to transform itself from a disappointing insurance company to a bonafide labour union. And I expect that an enormous atmosphere of sexism brought Sólveig under extreme pressure which created the conditions for her to be manipulated and fall victim to paranoia.
In March 2019, conservative elements in the union saw their opportunity amidst the unimaginable pressures on Sólveig to convince her the foreign staff were disloyal. So began her siege mentality that has led inescapably to this moment.
The former staff of the Organizing Division and Executive Board members never plotted against her. And while the current staff of the union did vigorously assert their need to reform a toxic work environment, they never plotted a rebellion against her either.
Through the lens of paranoia, nurtured by unprecedented sexism and harassment meted out through every lever of national power the employers of Iceland have at their disposal, each disagreement looked like mortal danger to Sólveig and her confidants.They are nevertheless morally culpable for their actions which have caused irreparable harm to their staff, fellow Executive Board Members, and the union’s members to whom they owe an apology.
It is safe to say the membership of the union is still keen to see Sólveig’s “B-List” campaign promises fulfilled. Namely, to reform the labour movement and to return it to relevance by democratizing one of the country’s most important unions. To create an environment inside the union that enables working people to take control of their working lives. To transform the union’s doctrine from one of managing social decline through bargaining to one that places action in all its forms at the heart of the union’s practice. A doctrine which affirms the preeminence of popular mobilization in the struggle for social justice, and against social regression.
The only discussion worth having now among serious people is about how to create the conditions necessary for member control of the union’s executive powers, how to fend off a regression to business as usual, and prevent unionism and socialism from being discredited in Iceland for the foreseeable future.”
Maxim Baru was the Head of Labour Organizing (Felagssvid) at Efling Union 2018 - 2019