Iceland: Court rejects complaint against right to strike restrictions

Human rights judges have rejected a complaint against Iceland concerning the right to strike and compulsory arbitration.

In its 7 June decision in the case of Association of Academics v. Iceland (application no. 2451/16) the European Court of Human Rights has unanimously declared the application inadmissible as being manifestly ill-founded.

The decision is final.

Relying on Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the applicant association, which represented 18 of its member unions, many in the health-care sector, complained that the Icelandic State had violated its members’ right to freedom of assembly and association by passing an Act in June 2015 which prohibited strikes that had been going on for several months during a period of collective bargaining.

The law also provided for a binding decision on employment terms by an arbitration tribunal.

Among other findings, the Court held that taking account in particular of the assessment made by the domestic courts of the effects of the strike on the health-care sector, the measures could be regarded as “necessary in a democratic society.”

It noted that the member unions had in fact been able to exercise two of the essential elements of freedom of association, namely the right for a trade union to seek to persuade the employer to hear what it had to say and the right to engage in collective bargaining.

The court agreed with the overall assessment of the Icelandic Supreme Court in the case and found the application association’s complaints to be manifestly ill-founded and thus inadmissible.

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