Skip to content

Upheaval against abuse culture in the labor market

On Tuesday, October 17 2023, two unrelated news items were published on, both of which dealt with the toxic culture that exists in Iceland's labor market.

At 12:45 an article was published where Vilhjálmur Birgisson, chairman of the Akraness trade union, detailed how a member of the union had been dismissed from their job at Norðurál for speaking badly of the company, according to Norðurál (and attending family fun day without registering), after working there for 17 years. Link to the article can be found here.

Later that day, at 15:17 another article was published, this time about how Markús Ingólfur Eiríksson, the director of the Suðurnes‘ Health Center (HSS), sued the government and Minister of Health Willum Þór Þórsson because of what Ingólfur believes to be unfairness and unreasonable pressure in connection with his illegal dismissal. The article includes a statement from Markús, where he explains that unacceptable behavior and dishonesty towards him began when he pointed out that HSS's activities were poorly financed in Markús' opinion, and that Markús was threatened that his appointment as director of HSS would be not extended if he did not stop this criticism. Link to the article can be found here.

One of the articles is about a faceless person who can't protect themselves when they are fired for having, according to Norðurál, "talked badly about the company". The second article is about a high-ranking CEO, well known for his work, who dared to do his job and fight for the good of the business for which he was responsible.

One person cannot seek out justice for their case, as they have everything to lose. The second party is financially stable and can take the necessary steps to name not only the minister behind his supposed unfair dismissal, but the state as well.

Both individuals have one thing in common; having been fired, one because of his alleged views (according to Norðurál), and the other for doing his job the way a CEO should (but not patting the right backs along the way).

These two individuals are not the only once. There are many individuals who have found themselves in this exact situation. Individuals who are targeted by their employer and "something is found" to use against them in order to remove these individuals from their position. I'm glad that the anonymous person's union took up their case and broadcasted it’s unfairness. I hope that other unions will follow suit and crack down on such attacks by employers on individuals. And I am even more glad that a person who has been in one of the highest positions in the health care system is taking necessary steps and seeking justice for themselves. A possible court case that all unions will be watching closely. A case that will hopefully have a positive outcome for the toxic culture that prevails in the labor market.

But it's this culture, that if you aren’t codependently and blindly supporting everyone above you, you're outed from your position with calculated malice. This culture that says you can only say "I love my workplace" and not "something is lacking". This culture that forbids employees to have ambition in their work and for their workplace, because this independent thinking is not suitable for those who have the power and the money.

The writer of this article has extensive experience of such things in her work in the field of human resources, both having been exposed to such treatment herself, hearing about and opposing such actions against employees, as well as being forced to participate in such treatments against others due to her job. And no matter what the circumstances are, it is always the victim who ends up out of a job, if not with direct dismissal, then from voluntarily quitting after repeated abuse from the employer as the person is hounded out of their job.

It's an ugly game, an ugly game that all the employees seem to think is normal since the employers are the ones who hold all the cards, the employers have all the power and the money. And if an individual points out a negative experience with an employer, it is the individual who will be made out as the problem, not the employer.

We are seeing an upheaval from this culture in the labor market. Employees no longer sit quietly under injustice and oppression from their employer. Employees demand to be treated with integrity, with the interests of people (both employees themselves and service users!) held in the highest regard, and not just the interests of individuals who benefit from the prevailing oppression.

This upheaval is for the better, as long as it continues in the positive direction it is going.

To those of you who dare to point out what is wrong, to those of you who dare to take the fight, to those of you who are under oppression, threats, and often abuse at the hands of your employer because of this struggle:

I support you.

We support you.

You are not alone.

Article first published on 19.10.2024 [link].