The role of unions is first and foremost to negotiate, on behalf or their members, wages and other employment terms in collective wage agreements and to protect their interests in the labour market.
In unions, wage earners join hands, on the basis of a common occupational sector and/or education, in protecting their interests.
The majority of unions form larger sector-based or geographically based federations. These federations of unions come together in four employee umbrella associations. Icelandic Confederation of Labour, Federation of State and Municipal Employees, Association of Academics and The Icelandic Teachers' Union. There are also a number of unions that are not members of these federations.
Unions are responsible for protecting the general rights of wage earners, and the union representatives represent their members during collective wage agreement negotiations.
Unions provide their members with information and legal consultancy services about the terms that acts of law and collective wage agreements ensure for them. Union employees are bound by obligations of confidentiality to members seeking their rights.
Diverse social and educational activities take place within the unions.
A range of information on the activities of unions and wage terms may be obtained from the offices of unions and from their websites.
Membership and membership fees
Unions are open to all in the sector involved in its area of operation. Each union establishes further rules on membership.
According to laws and collective wage agreements, all wage earners pay a fee from their wages to the union. The fee accrues to the union that has negotiated the collective wage agreement on which the employee's terms of employment are based.
The fee is paid through the employer, who deducts the fee from the employee's wages and transfers it to the union in question.
Many unions discontinue the fee obligation when members reach the age of 65, 67 or 70, even if they are still employed.
Employees need not be a member of a union if they so choose. They are, however, still required to work in accordance with statutory collective wage agreements.