Dockworkers carrying banners reading “Dockworkers in solidarity with IKEA workers” rallied at ten global ports crucial to the IKEA supply chain.
The dockworkers were taking part in the December 17 solidarity actions organized by the International Transportation Federation (ITF) to support workers at the IKEA store in Richmond, British Columbia who have been locked out for seven months.
The locked out workers belong to Teamsters Local 213.
The first solidarity rally took place in Sydney, Australia where members of the Maritime Union of Australia gathered to show their support for their fellow union members in Canada.
A statement issued by the MUA said that, “The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) is angered and disappointed by developments in Richmond, British Columbia.”
At the Sydney rally, MUA National Secretary and ITF President Paddy Crumlin told the crowd that a fact-finding commission had found that IKEA in Richmond refused to bargain in good faith and has taken action suggesting that it wants to break the workers’ union. The report issued by the commission calls for IKEA to return to the bargaining table and bargain in good faith.
“We and our counterparts from around the world are gathering and demonstrating to put the case for a settlement that respects the needs, aspirations and strengths of IKEA workers,” said Crumlin.
Solidarity rallies also took place in Tokyo; Gothenburg, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; Kristiansand, Norway; Aarhus, Denmark; Felixstowe, UK; Zeebrugge, Belgium; Rotterdam, Netherlands; and Vancouver, Canada.
In Canada, more than 100 union members from the ILWU, Teamsters, BC Federation of Labor, and other unions gathered at the Richmond IKEA store, then moved their demonstration to the docks of Vancouver.
In front of the Richmond store Grant Coleman of the Teamsters told the crowd that the international action against IKEA was a warning. We have global commitments to engage in sympathy actions at ports throughout the world that could disrupt IKEA’s supply chain, said Coleman.
“Things are snowballing,” said Local 213 member Keith Austin, who just returned from Sweden where he and other members of an international delegation publicized the Richmond IKEA lockout. “We’re supported by millions of unionized workers around the world.”
At the rally in front of the Richmond IKEA store, Gordan Adams, a member of ILWU Local 502, said that rank and file members of ILWU Locals 500 and 502 had raised $12,000 to support the locked out Teamsters.
After the rally at the store, the demonstrators moved to the Local 502 dispatch hall where Coleman told the ILWU members at the hall waiting for a shift change how much he and the Teamsters appreciated the support that the ILWU has given to the locked out IKEA workers.
He especially thanked Peter Lahay, of the ILWU who is also the ITF representative in Canada, for the effort he put into to organizing the international support for the IKEA workers.
Lahay called IKEA’s actions “inexcusable.”
“IKEA has put its workers on the street for seven months purely for retaliation,” said Lahay. “These workers exercised their legal right to vote down IKEA’s demands for a discriminatory wage system and cuts to family health care benefits. Now, IKEA is holding the workers hostage while they stand outside in the winter, at Christmas time.”
Rocky Thompson, business agent for Local 502, said he was proud of his union, which takes seriously the old union motto, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”
“Today was one of the greatest days of my career as an officer of Local 502,” said Thompson. “The solidarity demonstrated by my local has definitely renewed my belief that there is strength in numbers.”
Thompson was especially proud of the rank-and-file members and casuals who donated money to the locked out workers. “You raised $12,000 for those workers,” said Thompson. “You should all be proud of yourselves, and be proud to be part of such a great organization. I know you all make me proud.”
In addition to the ILWU and MUA, dockworker unions that organized support rallies were the Swedish Transport Workers’ Union, the Finnish Transport Workers’ Union (AKT), the Norwegian Transport Workers’ Union, the United Federation of Danish Workers (3F), Unite the Union, the Belgian Transport Workers’ Union (BTB), ACV-CSC, Zenkoku-Kowan, and FNV Bondgenoten.