Iceland’s pensions lobby has said it will work alongside government and labour market parties to find a loan relief solution for the residents of Grindavik who have been evacuated in the face of an expected volcanic eruption.

But the efforts are seen as too slow for some of the disaster-hit townspeople who gathered yesterday outside the offices of Gildi, one of the country’s largest pension funds.

The pensions association, Landssamtök Lífeyrissjóða (LL), said in a statement: “The National Association of Pension Funds is now investigating how pension funds can, within the framework of the law, play a part in alleviating the difficult situations households and families of working people in Grindavík are currently facing, and which have put their income and assets at risk.”

LL said the people of Grindavík – the 3,400-population fishing town in southwest Iceland evacuated in early November – had already been given temporary relief from payments and interest on mutual fund loans.

But there were calls for pension funds to go further, it said, referring to the banking sector, which had cancelled interest and repayments on residents’ housing loans for three months.

The banks’ decision was presented as part of a comprehensive solution for Grindvík residents in conjunction with the government, LL said.

“Pension funds were not included in the councils due to this agreement, and it is clear that it is necessary to work on a broad basis with the government and the labour market to investigate which solutions can be considered by pension funds,” it added.

“Work will be done in the coming days to ensure a successful solution with the involvement of pension funds,” the lobby group said.

RÚV, Iceland’s national broadcaster, reported yesterday that a group of Grindavík residents had visited Gildi that day to demand that it and other pension funds lower interest rates and repayments on housing loans, mirroring the bank measures.

Árni Guðmundsson, Gildi’s chief executive officer, reportedly told the crowd: “Completely different rules and laws apply to us than the banks, and we just need our time to make sure that we are allowed to do this.”

However Hörður Guðbrandsson, chair of the Grindavík Trade Union, told RÚV that no real answers had been given by the pension funds.

“They say this is under consideration, and it has been under consideration for an incredibly long time, and they can’t find any reason to justify this,” he said.

A spokesman for Gildi confirmed the contents of the RÚV news story.

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