Tag Archives: Teamsters 213

IKEA’s (Sad) Spin Reply to My Boycott Letter

Solidarity means an attack on one is an offense to all!

So if you have sent your letter to IKEA explaining why you are boycotting them for locking out their Richmond workers for 10 weeks, you may have received this precious reply from the corporation, below. I will re-spin it down there, but first I need to talk about words.

For IKEA, “strike” is Swedish for “lockout.”

It thinks it’s being clever disputing the word, but it has locked out its employees for 10 weeks now. It started as a one-hour lockout after which the workers were invited back, but only if they accept the inferior contract they had already voted down. If IKEA had never locked out its workers, a strike may have happened. Letting workers re-enter only under inferior terms means the employer is defining the conditions for return. That, friends, is a lockout.

Bear that in mind as we drift through the IKEA spin email to convince me that it still loves its employees, despite wanting to reduce wages and benefits and contract out work, all while having earned $3.85 billion in profit in 2011.

Below is the re-spin. IKEA’s email is in italics, my responses aren’t. Emphasis is mine.

Subject: IKEA Contact

Date: Mon, 22 Jul 2013 17:52:55 -0400 (EDT)

From: IKEA CANADA <support@ikeaservice.ca>

To: stephen elliott-buckley <stephen@politicsrespun.org>

Hello Mr. Elliott-Buckley,

Thank you for contacting IKEA Canada. We appreciate your feedback with regards to the current labour dispute in Richmond; however, it is unfortunate that you have been misinformed regarding the agreement that was offered to our valuable co-workers.

  • Misinformed? Right. Let’s see how.

We have been bargaining in good faith for six months with the Union representing our Richmond store co-workers; but, we remain at an impasse. Throughout this dispute, IKEA’s goal has been for a quick, reasonable and equitable contract resolution for all concerned. That being said, under the recent advice of The BC Labour Relations Board, both parties have agreed to meet with a mediator to try to reach a settlement. Those meetings are now underway.

  • Good faith bargaining is really subjective.
  • I agree with its desire for a quick settlement. After the lockout it reduced its offer in stages so the sooner workers capitulated, the less they’d have to suffer. That’s called bargaining in reverse.
  • Reasonable: subjective, as is equitable. Employers often like to define concessions as equitable. Did I mention IKEA made $3.85 billion in profit in 2011? How do you define equitable? And if IKEA wants all concerned to feel a contract resolution is equitable, I wonder what would make the workers think concessions are reasonable and equitable.

Please be assured that IKEA continues to be committed to providing our co-workers with employment conditions that meet or exceed industry standards. We will not waiver from this commitment under any circumstances.

  • Industry standards. This is really important. This means that IKEA has been paying its workers higher than some kind of average, or some number someone asserts as an industry standard. Its goal in forcing concessions is to ensure it still meets or exceeds [by less] such a standard. That is called a race to the bottom. Others are paid less, therefore by definition, IKEA is paying too much. That, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have foreign sweatshops.

However, we think it’s important for you to know that we offer wages that are well above the industry standard and none of our co-workers will have a reduction in wages under the new agreement. IKEA Richmond offers very competitive paid benefits for both full-time and part-time co-workers as well as generous sick day eligibility for both full-time and part-time workers at levels unheard of in the retail industry.

  • Here, IKEA is being more explicit that it is paying its workers too much above the industry standard, which, by the way, it doesn’t define. What is the industry standard, BC’s minimum wage?
  • I also believe IKEA when it says none will have a wage reduction. What it doesn’t mention is that in a new 2-tiered wage system, new hires will work for less doing the same job. This is how that works: over time, the new hires outnumber the old ones and the new lower wage becomes the norm and the old wage earners are disappeared.
  • I believe IKEA that it offers benefits and sick days. Its email doesn’t mention that it will reduce eligibility for benefits. Levels unheard of in the retail industry? Sorry, I had to recover from the vapours after reading that. IKEA doesn’t mention what those levels are, or why it is so much better in the industry. But again, even if it’s true according to some kind of meaningful measurement, all it is really saying is that it wants its employees to not be such an awesome outlier and fit in with the rest of the industry–and save some loot and pad their $3.85 billion profit some more.

On behalf of IKEA, there is nothing more we want than to return to business as usual and welcome our co-workers back into the store so we can return to what we do best – providing outstanding service and products to our loyal customers. It is our hope that mediation will assist in reaching a settlement. IKEA Richmond cares about its co-workers and we understand this is a difficult time; however, they are welcome to return to work anytime.

  • Any employer that says it cares about its workers after locking them out, bargaining backwards, then continuing forcing a concessionary contract needs to look up some kind of definition of caring.
  • A difficult time. What a disturbingly innocuous phrase. That’s like a political leader sending soldiers “into harm’s way” as if harm is like the rain or gravity or something. I wonder who created this difficult time. It is not like a hurricane or a flood in Calgary or Toronto, or some kind of earthquake. Difficulties just don’t occur. Someone started this one: IKEA.

Thank you again for sharing your feedback with us.


IKEA Canada

  •  Sure, thanks for that.

Profits Before People: Richmond Ikea Lockout Enters Day 17


Boycott Ikea

Generating enough media spin to rival a jet engine at take off, the management and PR folks at Ikea Canada want you to believe that their poor little corporation is being held hostage by greedy, soulless union workers in Richmond.

Pity poor Ikea.

It’s tough being a multi-national corporation with a reputation for  union busting, still more union busting and sundry  human rights violations. It is also expensive to flog the entire planet with particle board, Allen Keys and horsemeat tainted foodstuffs. You can’t expect them to provide “coworkers” with a safe, fair and equitable place to work. After all, you can’t have your faecal contaminated Tarta Chokladkrokant and eat it too.

Bottom lines, people. Bottom. Lines.

Meanwhile, back in Lotusland, 300+ workers of the mega-Ikea store in Richmond are embroiled in a rapidly degenerating labor dispute. Members of the Teamsters Local #213 are locked out, and the store continues to skeleton crew it, while management utters threats in the news about further reducing the contract on the table if their slaves picketing staff doesn’t roll over and take the pounding.

(Source: CKNW)

It looks like some assembly may be required as things get tense in a labour dispute between some 300 union workers and management at the Richmond Ikea.

Manager Janet McGowan says the store has been operating on limited hours as Teamsters take job action.

But McGowan says they will now play hardball by gradually reducing the contract on the table if the union doesn’t sign soon, “So, on June 3rd, our co-workers would have a phase one offer that they could, in fact, be accepting and then we would give co-workers an additional five days before implementation of phase two and then an additional five days before the implementation of the phase three.”

Phase one would see a 500-dollar signing bonus go bye-bye, by phase three paid sick days would be cut in half.

If Ikea is so moral and fair, as their media relations people would have you think, why have the staff overwhelmingly rejected not one, not two, but THREE different offers by the company to date?


Ikea is attempting to drag workers back into the dark ages. Not just because they’re cheap, but because, according to their  track record, they also enjoy it.

(Never mind that Richmond-area retail workers reside in one of the most expensive cities in the world. It’s not like they have homes or families, right? Who needs to eat?)

Ikea is not about ensuring fair living wages. It’s about profit. Not people.

Primary contract issues, per Teamsters Local 213’s Facebook page:

  • re-introduction of multi-tiered wage systems
  • removal of hour guarantees
  • benefit reductions
  • contract work out schemes
  • many other concessions

I stand in solidarity with these men and women on the picket line.

Having been locked out by my employer  for over a month in the summer of 2000, I understand what these people are going through.
Spending your nights and days on a picket line, in all kinds of weather, all times of day, and not knowing what comes next is scary.

Here is what happens:

The first few days are adrenaline-fueled and high-energy. There is solidarity. There is power in numbers. Everyone is prepared to stick it to the man.

As time slithers on, and the rhetoric from the employer grows increasingly hostile, infighting starts. Division.

People start to blame each other. Blame the union. Question whether they made the right choice.  Side with the employer. Discomfort and unknowns don’t bring out the best in people.

When weeks near months, people become afraid. Union stipends/wage replacements are not enough in Vancouver. People start looking for other jobs.

The ones who hang in there start to feel guilt, and become compelled to accept whatever comes down the pipe from corporate, just to end the sustained duress.

The media portrays the workers as lazy, ignorant and willfully spiteful. Goodwill diminishes. There is a lack of public support.

The union organizers work hard to rally, but the morale just isn’t there, and their job grows increasingly difficult.

They need support. Your support. Our support. These are families and community members, not a faceless corporate entity.

Ways in which we can help boost the cause of the locked out Ikea workers in Richmond/Teamsters Local 213:

  • Boycott  Richmond Ikea. Don’t shop there. Don’t give them your money.
  • Boycott ALL Ikea locations. Don’t go running down the road to Coquitlam. (The breakfast is cheap for a reason.)
  • Don’t cross their picket lines. Ever.
  • Walk the picket line WITH them.
  • Bring by some food and beverage, especially if it is really hot or really cold.
  • If the weather becomes inclement, pop by with some shelter or weather related implements like umbrellas, ponchos or sunblock.
  • Respond to online editorials, radio talk shows, newspaper articles that spin in favour of Ikea and demonize labor unions/workers.
  • Use social media to counter the spin.
  • Write to them and let them know you support the workers.

Keep fighting the good fight, folks. Remind them that people need to come BEFORE profit.