Labour dispute drags on at Richmond Ikea

No talks planned between B.C. company and Teamsters Local 213

There is no end in sight for the labour dispute between the Richmond, B.C., Ikea and its union, Teamsters Local 213. The two parties even disagree on what to call the dispute — the union refers to the past 70 days as a lockout while the company is calling it a strike.

On May 9 the Teamsters served Ikea with a 72-hour strike notice. The notice, approved by 86 per cent of the membership, was in response to the company’s latest contract proposal. The new proposal made it harder for employees to receive benefits and introduced a two-tier wage structure that would result in workers being paid differently for similar jobs, union representatives said.

The company, however, said the proposal would merely bring the Richmond location in line with Ikea stores across Canada.

“Under the expired collective agreement, Ikea Richmond employees moved through the wage schedule too quickly, which increased staff costs at a much higher rate than the rest of the country,” company spokesperson Madeleine Lowenborg-Frick told the Globe and Mail. “We need to begin to align the Ikea Richmond store’s wage progression with the rest of Canada.”

More than 300 employees have been participating in the labour action since May 13 when Ikea responded to the union’s strike notice with a one-hour lockout. The company reports employees have been encouraged to return to work, but the union says the lockout has been ongoing. A Sept. 13 decision from the B.C. Labour Relations Board found the union’s “concerted action” constitutes a strike.

The Labour Relations Board also found that Ikea breached provincial labour code when it hired replacement workers and ordered the company to cease and desist.

The union refused a revised contract offer from the company in July and there has been little communication in the weeks since. About 30 workers who chose to cross the picket line have been expelled by the union and tensions are high with no talks scheduled between the parties moving forward. The dispute has caused Ikea to close its children’s play area and 600-seat restaurant as well as reduce store hours.

“The company has showed little interest in dealing with our issues at the bargaining table,” said Anita Dawson, a business representative for the union. “They seem intent on following their agenda which involve cutbacks. Our members are not interested in going backwards.”

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