Faroe Islands union workers strike for better wages, 2003

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Time Period:  
June 5,
Location and Goals
Faroe Islands
An 18% wage increase for workers in five unskilled workers' trade unions and an annual increase in early retirement payments.

In May 2003, a breakdown in bargaining occurred between the Association of Faroese Trade Unions (Færøernes Arbejderforeninger) and the Federation of Faroese Employers (Færøernes Arbejdsgiverforening). The Association of Faroese Trade Unions represented five unskilled workers’ trade unions. Bargaining ended when the trade unions rejected a wage increase of 6.8% over the next two years. The trade unions wanted an 18% wage increase over the next two years, as well as an annual increase in early retirement payments. After a compromise could not be reached, 12,000 of the 48,000 members of the Faroe Islands, about 30% of the working population, went on strike.

Most of the striking workers were a part of either the fish processing industry or were dockworkers. Their refusal to work effectively paralyzed the Faroe Islands. Workers refused to unload ships, leaving their contents, mostly fish, to rot in the harbor. Workers did not unload a single Faeroese trawler in Icelandic harbors during the strike. Strikers also refused to unload other ships carrying goods and food from Denmark. Their refusal caused supplies in stores to run out, shutting them down for the duration of the strike. Striking workers also refused to deliver gas to gas stations and to refill oil tanks in houses. Finally, the strike caused schools to close due to a lack of cleaning services.

The striking workers’ refusal to unload supplies that were integral to the Faroese economy halted the fishing and fish processing industries, as well as cut off access to everyday necessities such as schools, grocery stores, and gas stations. The strike put pressure on the Federation of Faroese Employers to meet the demands of the union workers because life could not carry on normally without their labor.

On June 4, 2003, after 5 weeks of striking, the Association of Faroese Trade Unions and the Federation of Faroese Employers met again and came to an agreement after 13 hours of negotiations. The trade unions won a wage increase of 9% over the next two years and a raise in the piece-rate paid to workers on the docks, as well as a clause in their contracts that forced employers to supply special gear needed to perform certain jobs. Though the Federation of Faroese Employers only conceded slightly from its original position, the Faroese press viewed them as the losers in the negotiations. The strike shut down a large portion of the economy, which left the employers with virtually no other options other than to concede.

Research Notes
"Faroe Islands strike ends.(Brief Article)." Nordic Business Report. M2 Communications Ltd. 2003. HighBeam Research. 23 Mar. 2011 <http://www.highbeam.com>.;

Proppe, Ólof A. "Strike Shuts down Ports of Faroe Islands." The Militant. 30 June 2003. Web. 27 Mar. 2011. <http://www.themilitant.com/2003/6722/672252.html>.;

"Agreement Concluded on Faroe Islands after Major Strikes." EIROnline. European Industrial Relation Observatory, 11 June 2003. Web. 27 Mar. 2011. <https://eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/2003/06/inbrief/dk0306101n.htm>.;

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Kira Kern, 27/03/2011