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Lean time for “fat cats“ in Iceland

Icelandic fin whaler, Kristjan Loftsson (pictured in blue jumper below, fourth left), has not had a good couple of weeks. The Icelandic media continues to be relentless in its criticism of the billionaire following his recent re-election as Chair of the board of seafood giant, HB Grandi.  

One of the Board’s first actions was to award itself a 33.3% rise, increasing the monthly salary of board members by 50,000-100,000 ISK, or around £250-500. By comparison, his workers were awarded a paltry 3.3%, equating to a monthly increase of roughly 6,000 ISK, or under £30. Only one Board member, Rannveig Rist, had the decency to reject the raise, saying that it was out of line with basic incomes in Iceland.  

Loftsson’s desperate attempts at damage limitation, including television interviews during which he attempted to crack jokes, have not gone down well and public distaste within Iceland was hardly helped by the revelation that HB Grandi workers had been rewarded for their hard work and extra productivity with – an ice-lolly.  Growing public distaste over ‘fat cats’, apparently blind to their employees’ feelings, has found outlets in angry cartoons lampooning Loftsson, and equally angry scenes in Iceland’s parliament, the Althingi.  Opposition MPs said that HB Grandi should be ashamed of itself for showing its employees so little respect and even Elsa Lara Arnadottir, an MP from the pro-whaling Progressive party and part of the ruling coalition, asked whether the decimal point had been put in the wrong place. 

Only after workers threatened strike action did HB Grandi make certain concessions, agreeing to offer a bonus – but even then only to certain employees.

If Mr Loftsson had hoped for some respite by visiting the HB Grandi booth at this week’s Seafood EXPO Global in Brussels, then he will have been disappointed.  Not only has the HB Grandi stand been much quieter than others, but he’s faced fresh criticism of Grandi’s close links to fin whaling from WDC and other NGOs as we have placed prominent adverts in both the local and seafood press.

Lean times, it would seem, for this particular fat cat.

Be a voice for change and support our campaign to make Iceland famous as a whale nation, not a whaling nation. 

About Vanessa Williams-Grey

Policy manager - Stop Whaling and Responsible Whale Watching