Archive for July, 2014

IKEA workers: A tale of two labour movements

IKEA workers at Richmond Ikea store in Vancouver, Canada have been locked out for almost 14 months in a dispute over wage and benefits. The company wants to implement a two-tier wage system (a system workers struck successfully to get rid of in 2006) as well as force family workers to work 24 hours instead of 20 before claiming workplace benefits. This is despite the company setting a worldwide profits record in 2013.

The threat of having to work extra hours is especially galling as only 110 of the 350 strong workforce actually have guaranteed hours. In the two weeks running up to the strike only 13 out of 32 cashiers had shifts!

Initially the workers, members of the Teamsters union, planned a 72-hour strike against this, but have been locked out since May 13th 2013. Although 36 workers have crossed the picket line (after IKEA offered extra payments to do so – an act that the BC Labour Relations Board has found illegal), around 300 remain out, manning 24-hour pickets. The strike has shut the children’s play area, restaurant and reduced the stores opening hours. To escalate the action, a call has gone out to boycott IKEA stores. The Richmond store is one of only 12 across the country, with only one other store unionised.

In contrast, IKEA in the US has just announced a rise in its minimum wage of 17%, from $9.17 an hour to $10.76 starting January 1st 2015, which will benefit around 50% of its workforce across 38 stores. In a statement the company’s acting President says that they won’t raise prices, cut staff or stop hiring, they will absorb the pay rise from the company’s profits. IKEA’s only factory in the US, in Virginia, voted to unionise in the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers 3 years ago, followed a year later by its Maryland distribution centre.

The difference in the fate of IKEA in the two countries is striking, but comes down one crucial factor – the huge movement that has developed fighting for $15 an hour across the US, from striking fast food and retail workers to the election of Kshama Sawant in Seattle and the pushing through of the city wide wage rise there. As well as building and taking industrial action in defence of our interests, we have to build links in solidarity with other movements and ultimately, our own political representatives to give voice to our interests and demands.

Visit the locked out workers facebook page –

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Activist 52

July 2, 2014 4 comments

Special issue on the Tesco Pay award 2014

Categories: The Activist Tags: , ,