ICELAND’S deep sea fishermen are threatening to stage a strike which, if it goes ahead, will have a serious impact on the large Humber fish processing sector.
Processors and fish merchants in Grimsby and Hull buy large quantities of Icelandic cod and haddock.
The fishermen held a secret strike ballot in which they voted overwhelmingly for strike action which could begin as early as November 10.
They say they have been hit by a reduction in earnings resulting from a complicated pay and pricing structure for fish.
Ninety one per cent of members of the Icelandic Union of Marine Engineers and Metal Technicians voted for action along with 90 per cent of the union which represents deck crews.
The ships officers’ union had previously voted to accept the terms of an agreement with owners’ federation SFS (Fisheries Iceland).
There are several issues that the pro-strike unions are deeply dissatisfied with, including the percentage that crews of new vessels pay towards construction costs, which is felt to be excessive.
Fisheries Iceland, the organisation representing Icelandic fishing companies, said it was disappointed with the vote.
‘It is the responsibility of all parties to make every effort to agree on a collective agreement before the strike begins,’ Heidrun Lind Marteinsdottir, chief executive of Fisheries Iceland, told the Icelandic media.
Collective agreements negotiated by the parties last June were rejected in a secret ballot. Since then the parties have tried to negotiate on different terms, but without a result.
As a consequence, the unions have called the aforementioned strike. Icelandic fishing unions have gone to the brink in the past, reaching last minute agreements.
The situation is being closely monitored in Grimsby, but finding replacement supplies could be difficult.
The Humber receives a large weekly shipment of Icelandic fish providing vital supplies for Grimsby merchants.
Norway could step in and partly fill the gap but while it has plenty of fish, there are logistical problems in getting fresh supplies to the Humber.