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IKEA dispute heads into 12th week

Witold Piwowar, a 14-year employee, and Margaret Horvath, a 26-year IKEA worker, on the picket line with co-workers Thursday afternoon. - Matthew Hoekstra photo
Witold Piwowar, a 14-year employee, and Margaret Horvath, a 26-year IKEA worker, on the picket line with co-workers Thursday afternoon.
— image credit: Matthew Hoekstra photo

Approximately 325 unionized IKEA workers are heading into their 12th week on the picket line following a third session of mediation that failed to resolve the labour dispute.

“We need to find a fair resolution that gets everyone to work as soon as possible so we can get on with business. We’re hopeful that mediation will get us there,” said IKEA spokesperson Madeleine Löwenborg-Frick.

Teamsters Local 213 and the Swedish furniture giant met with a mediator this week to address the union’s concerns of a tiered wage system and the union’s expulsion of 27 workers who crossed the picket line and returned to work, according to Löwenborg-Frick.

“We don’t think this strike is in anyone’s interest,” she said. “IKEA is committed to finding a fair resolution for everybody.”

Löwenborg-Frick said the company’s original offer involved no wage reduction for current employees and “exceeds industry averages.”

A tiered-wage system is something the union previously fought to eliminate. It was successful for some employees, but not all. Now IKEA wants all employees on a tiered system, putting it at odds with unionized workers.

Teamsters Local 213 representative Anita Dawson said although the company’s initial offer didn’t cut employee wages, it did cut their chances to move up the pay scale.

Meetings between the two sides and the mediator are scheduled to continue Monday, according to Dawson.

“Having somebody else look at it from maybe a different perspective can help and offer suggestions, ideas and remedies to resolve this thing,” said Dawson.

A crowd of 200 people—unionized workers, labour leaders and politicians, including B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix—rallied outside the Richmond store July 20 in a show of support for the picketers. The B.C. Federation of Labour issued a statement following the Saturday rally calling on the public to boycott the Richmond and Coquitlam stores—the company’s two B.C. locations—until the dispute is resolved.

“[C]ustomers choosing to patronize the Coquitlam location, while the strike is on at the Richmond location, are assisting the company in breaking the strike,” the statement says.

Pickets went up at the Jacombs Road store May 13. The Richmond store is one of two IKEA retail locations in North America that is unionized. The other is in Montreal, Que. The local store remains open with reduced hours, but its restaurant and children’s play area are closed.

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