IKEA in Scotland have launched a savage attack on their workers’ rights and conditions in recent days. Conter spoke to trade unionists and members of the campaign to re-instate sacked Usdaw rep Richie Venton, about the continuing corporate assault.
UPDATE: Under pressure from the workers and their supporters, IKEA have now retreated from their cuts to sick pay. We urge readers to continue pressure for the reinstatement of Richie Venton.
Conter readers may be aware that on 28 August news broke that IKEA workers in Glasgow are threatening strike action after their union rep was sacked as part of a general campaign against workers conditions.
Richie Venton, the Usdaw union rep at the Glasgow Braehead IKEA complex was sacked during his ongoing campaign to stop the removal of existing paid sick leave entitlements during a pandemic. The attacks on conditions mean that workers will have to rely on £95 per week statutory sick pay if they have to self isolate with Covid-19, or for any other illness. The staff union has maintained that the removal of full sick pay for workers in a busy shop floor and warehouse environment is a serious threat to the health and safety of staff and customers alike.
To make clear the character of the attack, and the link between attack on union organisation and on workers’ pay and conditions, in the weeks following Venton’s sacking there have been further attacks on workers at IKEA, including a second drastic cut to sick pay, drawing in even more staff from 1 September.
One IKEA worker, who didn’ t want to be named for fear of victimisation, said: “The secretive Swedish multinational is the richest home furnishing company on earth, with £37billion revenues last year. They are secretive about their profits, which some reports put at £11.2billion in 2019, yet they take away our wages if we catch Covid-19, and sack our union convener for standing up to them, defending our health and lives. It’s appalling.”
Thousands have since signed the petition for Venton’s reinstatement.
We ask all Conter readers to take any solidarity action they can, including signing the petition for Richie Venton’s reinstatement, contacting your elected representative, and organising any union or non-union solidarity you can.
The campaign website can be found here.
We reproduce below the statement voted for unanimously at the workers’ union meeting on 24 August:
This meeting of Usdaw union members at IKEA Glasgow condemns the sacking of our co-worker and Union shop steward Richie Venton. We send him our full support and solidarity.
This is not only an attack on Richie and his family but also on our Union and the conditions we work under.
This is made worse because IKEA have used the disciplinary process to hide the facts of their actions against Richie and to gag him from communicating with the USDAW members who elected him to represent them.
As the COVID lockdown is relaxed we are increasingly convinced that IKEA sacked Richie because they saw him as an obstacle to their re-opening plans, because he has always put the welfare of workers first.
During the Coronavirus Richie argued for measures to defend our health and safety.
And he argued for any worker with COVID-19 to be paid their full wages, to remove the danger of financial hard-ship putting pressure on workers with the virus to come into work.
In the recent weeks since our shop steward has been absent from the Store and dismissed by IKEA, we have seen attacks on our conditions.
IKEA have removed payment of wages from anyone sick with COVID-19 or self-isolating, and added the penalty of sick absence points. We are concerned that this places extra pressure on those who may have COVID-19 symptoms to ignore them and come to work, which could put the health of both co-workers and customers at risk, particularly if there is a second COVID-19 spike.
This has recently been made far worse by the new sick absence policy IKEA wants to force on us from 1st September, which means far more people will be disqualified from sick benefit and expected to cope on £95 Statutory SickPay.
The danger of co-workers with COVID-19 still coming to work because they can’t afford to be off sick is mademuch greater with this outrageous cut to our sick benefits, just when other workplaces in Scotland are suffering outbreaks of COVID-19.
We feel under more and more danger from the Coronavirus as safety measures and social distancing are slackened by Store management.
IKEA have scrapped the holiday booking system which Richie negotiated years ago, putting terrible pressure on many of our families.
IKEA have started putting even more pressure on some co-workers by using new time and motion methods, something abolished in most workplaces long ago.
We don’t believe sacking our union representative and carrying out these attacks on our rights are just a coincidence.
Richie has a very good record in doing his job and a great record of standing up for union members.
He has dedicated years of his own time to represent hundreds of us, gained improvements in our working conditions and resisted every attack on conditions by IKEA.
We fear that without a strong union and strong union representatives the workers of IKEA will suffer more cuts to our conditions of work.
As IKEA co-workers and union members we totally oppose the attacks on our sick benefits and call on the union to organise immediate action to stop it going ahead.
We demand that IKEA immediately reinstate Richie Venton to his job and to his position as our elected Union representative and stop their cuts to our rights and conditions.
If that does not happen immediately, we call on Usdaw to organise every possible form of action, including legal action, publicity about what is happening, and a vote for industrial action against the victimisation of our union representative and in defence of all our conditions of work.