By DAVID HALME
Special to The Stand
RICHMOND, B.C. (July 9, 2013) — More than 300 workers at IKEA here have been locked out of their jobs since May 15 when they rejected a company offer that included the imposition of a tiered wage structure. Teamsters Local 213 were thrilled June 5 when the British Columbia Labour Relations Board found IKEA guilty of using scab workers to keep the Richmond store open.
Even though IKEA profits worldwide have consistently increased, they have a lousy reputation beyond Swedish borders. When on North American soil, IKEA treats their “co-workers” in a very different manner than they would dare in Sweden where the workforce is more than 70% unionized.
“Tiered wage structures such as the one proposed by IKEA poison work sites and create resentment between co-workers,” said BC Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair. “Moreover, they contribute to the part-timing of work, as management seeks to take advantage of the new, lower wage categories.”
In a letter to the Richmond IKEA employees, store manager Janet McGowan had threatened to reduce the terms and conditions of employment if the employees do not return to work by the deadline of June 13. Even though the letter by McGowan refers to IKEA employees as “co-workers,” there is little evidence of it as IKEA is determined to underpay its employees and force its will on the members of Teamsters 213.
In Canada and the U.S., IKEA has embraced union busting. So much so, that the International Association of Machinists (IAM) produced a video called “Same Rules, Same Respect.” charging “when on American soil, IKEA is playing by a very different set of rules than when at home, …We’ve become Sweden’s Mexico…starting wages are less than half of their Swedish counterparts and less than half their vacation time.”
In summing up the actions of IKEA, politicsrespun.org reported, “It’s tough being a multi-national corporation with a reputation for union busting, still more union busting and sundry human rights violations. It is also expensive to flog the entire planet with particle board, Allen Keys and horsemeat tainted foodstuffs. You can’t expect them to provide ‘coworkers’ with a safe, fair, and equitable place to work.”
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