July 25, 2014 7:48 pm

LRB rules in favour of striking IKEA workers in Richmond

Employees at IKEA in Richmond have been locked out since May 2013.

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File

The union representing locked out IKEA workers in Richmond says it’s “extremely pleased” following a decision by the B.C. Labour Relations Board Friday.

The LRB sided with the union over additional compensation being offered by IKEA to the employees who are currently operating the store during the lockout. The employees have been expelled from the union.

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IKEA bargained directly with employees and through a website posting that offered employees an extra $2.50 an hour, additional unspecified weekend premiums and other enhancements if the employees crossed the picket line to work. Further, the LRB found that IKEA was trying to induce the Union members to abandon the Union and bypass the exclusive bargaining agent rights of the Teamsters Union.  The Labour Board expressly ordered that the Web posting be removed and that IKEA cease paying monetary incentives, reads a blog post by Teamsters 213.

“We are extremely pleased with this decision. This shows IKEA for what it is; a company which makes billions of dollars a year in profits yet it refuses to negotiate to bring an end to this dispute but is willing to underhandedly pay more than what was in the last offer they gave us,” says Anita Dawson of Teamsters 213.

IKEA Canada spokesperson Madeleine Löwenborg-Frick says the monetary incentives were necessary because staff members who are currently operating the store are coping with a reduced workforce, and are learning new skills and working in new areas of the store. Many of them are also performing job functions that are higher paid roles, says Löwenborg-Frick.

She says IKEA wants to get back to the bargaining table, but applications from the union with the LRB are delaying negotiations.

A decision on the union’s first application regarding the employment of 35 co-workers expelled from the union will be decided by October 7.

“Out of respect for the process, we feel it’s best to wait for that ruling before going to back to the bargaining table,” says Löwenborg-Frick.

“We respect the LRB and the process — we had agreed with the union that we would return to the bargaining table, and we are committed to getting back to bargaining table once these decisions come down from the LRB.”

Löwenborg-Frick says the strike has gone on far longer than anyone expected, and that’s not in anyone’s best interest.

“it’s gone on far too long and we would just like to see this resolved.”

Employees at IKEA Richmond have been locked out since May 13, 2013. The union says there has been no bargaining since December 2013.

IKEA says it will appeal the LRB decision.

“Our sole intention was to compensate people fairly for the work they are doing. This particular ruling says there’s a restriction on an employer for setting a employment conditions when there’s no collective agreement in place,” says Löwenborg-Frick. “It’s unprecedented.”

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