IKEA labour dispute now in eighth week

B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix visited unionized workers at the Richmond IKEA picket line last weekend, a day after 27 workers were expelled from their union for returning to work.

The labour dispute between approximately 325 workers represented by Teamsters Local 213 and the Swedish furniture giant is now in its eighth week, after pickets went up around the Jacombs Road store on May 13.

After meeting union members Saturday, Dix commented on Twitter that he was "impressed by their commitment." Other NDP politicians, including Vancouver East MP Libby Davies, have also personally offered support to picketers.

But the dispute has gone on long enough for some. The union recently expelled 27 workers for crossing the picket line and returning to work.

"IKEA continues to welcome any co-workers who wish to return to work at any time," said IKEA spokesperson Madeleine Löwenborg-Frick.

She said the union has rejected an offer that includes annual wage increases and competitive benefits. Under the company's proposal, 58 per cent of employees would make $18 an hour, 25 per cent would make over $21 an hour and just five per cent would make the lowest rate of $10.79 an hour.

"Unfortunately both parties remain at an impasse with regards to the rejected offer. IKEA continues to make ourselves available to the union, however, they have not shown any interest in working together to find new creative solutions to reach an agreement."

But Teamsters Local 213 representative Anita Dawson said the company wants its proposed tiered wage system accepted for bargaining to continue. Dawson said workers went on strike in 2007 to eliminate such a wage system—and they don't want it back.

"The company has continued to further reduce their offer," she said. "This is backwards bargaining and we can't see how this will entice anybody to come back to work."

The Richmond store is one of two IKEA locations in North America that is unionized. The other is in Montreal, Que.

The local store remains open during the dispute, but its restaurant and kids' play area are closed. Other services, such as the returns and exchanges, have also been disrupted.

On the picket line, workers were holding signs this week that included: "Giving us lower wages to pay for the new store!

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