BC Labour Relations Board: IKEA Is Bargaining In Bad Faith

I’ve written several previous posts about the labour dispute at the IKEA store in Richmond, British Columbia, which has seen unionized workers locked out for more than a year.

In May, the union representing the workers, Teamsters Local 213, filed a complaint with the British Columbia Labour Relations Board (LRB) about IKEA’s actions. The union alleged that IKEA was trying to undercut the union’s role as the workers’ representative in bargaining, by offering financial inducements to workers to cross picket lines and return to their jobs.

On Friday, July 25, the LRB ruled that IKEA had committed unfair labour practices and had bargained in bad faith. The full text of the LRB decision is available here. This press release from the Teamsters states that IKEA has been ordered to pay damages to the Teamsters; to stop paying the financial inducements to employees returning to work; and to remove the website posting that promised the financial inducements.

Here is the website that IKEA has set up to communicate with employees about the lockout. When I heard about the LRB decision, I was able to get to this site and take a screenshot of the disputed information before it disappeared from the FAQ page later that same day. However, PDF files with some of the same information – which I assume is part of the information that the LRB ordered to be removed – are still on the site. If you put “richmondcoworkers.ca” into a Google search, the listing that comes up includes headings labeled “we would love to have you back” and “pdf”. Click on these to see the files.

From the website information, this is what IKEA was offering workers if they crossed the picket lines to return to work:

  • Workers in “wage progression” would receive an automatic 5% base wage increase and a $500 bonus.
  • Workers at the maximum wage rate would receive an automatic 1% base wage increase and a $500 bonus. Full-time workers would also receive a $600 lump sum payment, and part-time workers would receive a $300 lump sum payment.
  • While the “strike” continued, all returning workers would receive a $2.50/hour premium for all hours worked, an extra unspecified premium for weekend hours worked, optional vacation payouts, full benefits entitlements based on eligibility, the opportunity for cross-training, the opportunity for overtime, and “the ability to work as few or as many hours as you want”.

The negotiations between IKEA and the Teamsters have stalled because of disputes over a number of bargaining items, including the union’s demand that, when the dispute is resolved, the returning workers not have to work with employees who crossed the picket line during the lockout.

IKEA made a record profit last year in its worldwide operations, and its owner is one of the richest men in the world. The Richmond store is one of only two unionized IKEA stores in Canada (the other is in Montreal), and there are just over 300 employees involved in this bargaining dispute. I really have a hard time understanding why IKEA sees this dispute as such a major threat to its corporate or financial well-being.

The LRB decision notes that “the overall terms and conditions offered to employees during the labour dispute in the web posting are superior to the terms and conditions offered to the union in collective bargaining“.  So, in other words, IKEA claims that it cannot afford the wage rates that the Teamsters are requesting, but it can afford to pay higher rates to workers crossing the picket lines than what it last offered at the bargaining table.  This is shameful behaviour for  a company that claims, “We respect the rights of co-workers to join, form or not to join a co-worker association of their choice without fear of reprisal, interference, intimidation or harassment“.

The LRB ruling has sent a clear message to IKEA about respecting its employees and their choices. Hopefully this ruling will motivate IKEA to return to the bargaining table, and to act in the way that its corporate values suggest it should be acting.

UPDATE: According to a new post on the richmondcoworkers.ca homepage, IKEA “disagree[s] with the decision and will be appealing it as well as applying to delay the remedies ordered by the Labour Board“. In the meantime, the PDF files referred to in the original post, containing the information about the offers to workers crossing the picket line, have now apparently completely disappeared from the website, although the links still come up in a richmondcoworkers.ca Google search.





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