Some companies accused of “shameful” hiring practice

03.06.2021 - 12:07
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 Mynd: RÚV - Bragi Valgeirsson - RÚV
There are examples of companies that received notice period payment support at the start of the pandemic not offering people their old jobs back now, as they were required to by law. It is feared inexperienced people are being employed to some positions instead, on lower wages, and even using the government’s Hefjum störf scheme which helps cover the cost of employing people who were previously unemployed for a long time.

Companies that laid off staff when the pandemic struck last year were eligible for financial support from the treasury to pay part of their wage bill during employees’ mandatory notice period.

Priority for similar jobs 

Under the law, it is clearly stated that employers who took advantage of the scheme must offer the same former employees priority treatment when similar job roles arise. They must notify former employees of new job openings and must offer similar jobs to former employees if they arise within 12 months of termination. 

Companies not following rules 

RÚV has evidence from an employee of a hotel that closed last autumn, making him unemployed. The staff member has not heard from the hotel since, even though it has now re-opened. He was not offered his old job back. “So, companies that are doing this are clearly not adhering to what was discussed at the beginning,” says Björn Snæbjörnsson, the chairman of the SGS Federation of General and Special workers in Iceland (pictured above). 

Playing the game 

He believes nearly all companies are playing by the rules. “But we are hearing of several examples when this is not being done. It seems that the reality is that some are playing this game.” He says every such example he has heard of relates to the tourism industry. 

Low-paid, inexperienced people instead 

Under the current Hefjum störf initiative, employers can apply for public money to help them create jobs for the long-term unemployed. 

Leaders of trades unions RÚV has contacted fear that instead of standing by their responsibility to re-hire old staff laid off with the help of public money, some companies may be using yet more public money to help them employ different, less experienced, people to the same jobs, for lower wages.  

Tourism industry staff on lowest wages 

“It has been common in the tourism sector, at least as far as we know, for people there to usually be on these lowest wages that have been agreed upon. There is very little in the way of higher wages,” says Björn. “These people being hired are on these contracts that we negotiated.” 

Should punish such behaviour 

Strict penalties should be in place for companies that abuse the opportunities they were given and break their contractual agreements at the same time, Björn believes. “I believe it counts as misconduct if people have been getting grants to lay people off and then not employing the same people back again. That is an abuse and such companies should be ashamed. The first thing should be to take these employment grants back from them. And I think they should be fined too. Just to make sure they follow the laws and rules that they are supposed to follow in the future.” 

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