Ikea Richmond staff facing period of 'adjustment'

Union happy to see end of 17-month dispute, but workers return will be phased in

There will likely be a period of adjustment for those 300 or so Richmond Ikea employees who laid down their picket signs Wednesday evening after 17 months as their union and the Swedish home furnishing giant announced a 10-year deal had been struck.

At the centre is the fact unionized staff will have to work alongside a few dozen co-workers who crossed the picket line early in the dispute and, as a result of their actions, were expelled from union Teamsters Local 213.

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“This is where it ended up, and the parties are going to have to live with the decision that Vince Ready brought down,” said Teamsters spokesperson Anita Dawson. “I think it’s going to take some adjustment.”

Ace mediator Ready, who is fresh from bringing B.C.’s public school strike to an end, re-entered talks Monday with the precondition his recommendations were binding.

Keeping the employees who crossed the picket lines and returned to work was one of them.

The union had argued they should be re-assigned to another location or given management designation.

“Mr. Ready has recognized that the company’s offer is fair and generous and he has ruled that all employees who crossed the picket line to perform their own jobs during the strike shall remain employed at Ikea Richmond,” noted an Ikea news release.

Dawson said the deal is a definite improvement over what the company was initially offering, and the length of its terms provides workers with a sense of stability.

She added it was worthwhile having Ready involved to help bring talks to a conclusion.

“He helped the parties to achieve the final push to get an agreement,” Dawson said.

Since both sides have made an agreement not to divulge details, specifics of raises and other benefits will not be made public, Dawson said.

According to Ikea, the company is providing employees with a “generous” wage offer, in addition to benefits, including a new health care spending account.

Since the deal was based on binding recommendations, no ratification vote is required by the unionized members.

While the pickets came down Wednesday, the workers will not all return to work immediately. Dawson said they will be called back on a phased-in basis.

“Some departments have not been open for a year and a half, so you have to make sure services like the restaurant is up to health standards,” she said.

“We’re going to do our best and get things back on track at the store. Over the past year and a half, the general public has been fantastic in supporting us, and now that this dispute is over, we need them to come back and shop there,” Dawson said.

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