Ikea, workers' reading of LRB ruling differ

Talks resume in 16-month long labour dispute

Both sides in the near 16-month long labour dispute at the Richmond Ikea store are talking following a pair of Labour Relations Board rulings provided a split decision.

Anita Dawson, who represents the 300 or so workers belonging to Teamsters Local 213, said talks resumed with the Swedish furniture giant Monday, and bargaining is expected to carry over into next week.

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Dawson disputed the company’s interpretation of one LRB recent ruling regarding the 35 employees who crossed the picket line and went back to work.

The Teamsters expelled those workers from the union for their actions and requested they be re-assigned to another store, or assume management positions.

Ikea stated last week the LRB found the company did not bargain in bad faith in the matter and the union’s request to remove the employees would have been against the Canada Labour Code.

However, union reps stressed they had not asked for the employees to be removed but re-assigned.

“For the record, the Teamsters’ position always has been and continues to be that we do not want those people fired and have suggested alternatives to Ikea regarding their employment,” Dawson said.

The LRB’s second ruling denied Ikea’s appeal to overturn its earlier judgement the company had bargained directly with employees who returned to work by offering different conditions during the strike than what had been offered to the union during bargaining. According to Ikea, the conditions included weekend overtime and $2.50 an hour premiums for some employees.

Dawson said Ikea is not allowed to continue to pay the enhanced wages.

“Clearly what they did was in bad faith and we are very pleased that the board upheld the original decision which also ordered damages to be paid to the union for everything that was paid above what had been offered at the bargaining table,” Dawson said.

She added the union will be pursuing damages and have asked the employer for the payroll records to determine the amounts.

In a press release, Ikea’s public relations manager Madeleine Löwenborg-Frick, said the company will abide by the ruling.

“However, we maintain that we were solely looking to compensate our employees for the added work they are doing during the strike,” she said. “This ruling does not affect collective bargaining or the outcome of the strike.”

Since the dispute started in mid May last year, the Richmond Ikea location has been operated  on reduced hours and services.

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