As the lockout at the IKEA store in Richmond, British Columbia entered its fourth month, the company made an offer that it thought workers could not refuse. But for the fourth time since contract negotiations began earlier this year, the workers, who are members of Teamsters Local 213, voted to reject the company’s offer.
Local 213 Business Representative Anita Dawson, a former IKEA worker, told The Tyee that the rejected offer eliminated some of the concessions originally sought by the company but that the new offer was too weak.
According to Madeleine Lowenborg-Frick, an IKEA spokeswoman, IKEA’s latest proposal does not include the two-tiered wage structure that the company originally proposed.
The two-tiered wage structure would have resulted in new hires and some current employees making less that other workers doing the same job, one of the main reasons that 84 percent of Local 213 members in May rejected the company’s original offer.
After workers rejected the original offer, the company made subsequent proposals that Dawson described as backward bargaining. That is, the subsequent proposals were worse than the original.
While the company’s rejected offer was an improvement, it would have made it more difficult for workers, many of whom are low-wage workers, to make any significant headway in improving their wages.
The Globe Mail reports that most of the raises offered in the rejected proposal were tied to sales and productivity goals established solely by the company. Those goals are $20 million to $30 million more than current sales. The goals would escalate over a six-year period.
“Most of the things that attribute to the sales goals are out of our control,” said Dorothy Tomkins, a Local 213 member to the Globe Mail. “They’re basically within management’s control. We don’t control how much stock comes into the store and whether we have items available to sell.”
If the workers had accepted the company’s offer, it would have taken some workers more than 20 years to reach the maximum hourly rate in their job category.
Local 213 has maintained its pickets line at the store and is urging people to boycott the IKEA Richmond store and another IKEA store in Coquitlam that is owned by the same franchise holder who owns the Richmond store.
Other unions and union members have helped out Local 213. Members of the Douglas County Faculty Association recently joined Local 213 members on the picket line.
Earlier this month, JIm Sinclair, president of the BC Labor Federation wrote an op-ed piece that appeared in The Province in which he said that IKEA’s lockout is an attack on the middle class.
“IKEA insist(s) that its workers accept a contract that would lower wages by as much as four dollars an hour,” writes Sinclair. “IKEA’s offer also cuts benefits. Every time a rich company like IKEA is successful in replacing decent paying jobs with low-wage jobs, Canada’s shrinking middle class is made even more vulnerable.”