My name is Ian and I work in a manufacturing job in Iceland. I am a member of Efling Union, and I also sit on the union’s negotiations committee.
My job is many levels of management below the executives and the CEOs. I am one of the people who make a product which is then sold for a massive profit by the company where I work. My labor is essential to this continued profitability. As is the labor of everyone I work with, and everyone else in my position at other companies.
That labor is the subject of a calculation by employers, which can be boiled down to a single sentence: “What is the absolute bare minimum we can pay this employee to stop him from not taking the job in the first place or from walking out of the door?”
I have spent a long time in that position, where my only choices were to try and justify a pay raise to those same people making that calculation, or to wait and hope that other people win some kind of distant fight behind closed doors for any shred of leniency and support.
That has now changed. Attending negotiations meetings with employers is the first time that I have been able to sit down and look a person in the eye while they tell us that we don’t deserve to be paid a living wage. For the longest time, we have been lied to that wage increases and other concessions are unaffordable and unrealistic. Until now, we have had no recourse to fight this narrative. No way to tell a truth to that lie.
Yet, the idea that a wage increase is unaffordable by corporations is absolutely, fundamentally untrue. Perhaps that is why SA have not brought up that argument in the negotiations with Efling up to this point. Maybe SA knows that the moment they do, they would be confronted by the immense profits of the companies they represent and the entire edifice would crumble.
We live in a time where every year gets harder and harder for us to merely exist. Where every paycheck goes less and less far. For far too long we have been deliberately removed and excluded from the very process which determines our quality of life. We have not been considered important enough to even be in the room. Just a number in a calculation. That is changing now.
I look forward to continuing my work in the Efling negotiations committee with my brave fellow Efling workers.
The author is an immigrant worker in manufacturing in Iceland and member of the Efling negotiations committee.