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Teamsters take aim at IKEA
The union representing picketing workers at Richmond IKEA is increasing pressure on the Swedish furniture retailer to negotiate an end to a 14-month labour dispute.
Teamsters Local 213 is taking out advertisements depicting a broken bookcase with the name Bülly—a sarcastic take on the popular Billy bookcases sold at IKEA. The ad, the first of its type since the dispute began in May 2013, accuses IKEA of making billions while bullying workers.
“IKEA Corporate is forcing workers to take a lot less—and is locking them out until they give in,” reads the ad. “Tell IKEA to treat its workers fairly. Go IKEA-free—and don’t shop at any location or online until it does.”
Teamsters representative Anita Dawson said word from the picket line suggests some shoppers are surprised to see pickets, unaware a labour dispute is still going on.
“It’s basically to reinvigorate the awareness that this is still ongoing, and IKEA is still not participating in negotiations,” said Dawson.
Approximately 325 unionized workers have been out of work for over a year. The Jacombs Road store remains open, albeit with reduced service.
So much time has passed, nine workers have had babies during the dispute, said Dawson.
“People’s lives still go on, and you think it’s a hardship just being a single person—now you’ve got a young child to take care of too.”
Contract talks have been frozen since December, according to Dawson. IKEA is waiting for a B.C. Labour Board ruling on a union application to clarify the status of 35 workers who crossed the picket line. But that shouldn’t get in the way of talks, Dawson said.
“We can still bargain,” she said. “The union has said we’re willing to negotiate on all of the outstanding issues, and IKEA still won’t come to the table.”
Unionized workers elsewhere in the country are also putting pressure on IKEA, recently picketing three Ontario stores in support of Richmond workers.
IKEA spokesperson Madeleine Löwenborg-Frick said an ad campaign won’t get the two sides any closer to an agreement. She added it’s in the “best interest of the process” to wait for the labour board’s ruling on the union’s application before restarting talks.
“We think it’s best to wait for a labour board ruling. At that point, we are willing to return to the bargaining table to reach a fair collective agreement with the union.”
Löwenborg-Frick also said IKEA remains committed to provide wages and benefits that exceed industry standards.
“We don’t believe this is in anyone’s best interest. We’ve never believed that.”