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Striking Ikea workers picket outside the Richmond Ikea store in Richmond, B.C. July 18, 2013. More than 300 Ikea workers have been locked out of their jobs for more than two months and are striking for higher wages, more hours and improved benefits. (Jeff Vinnick For The Globe and Mail)
Striking Ikea workers picket outside the Richmond Ikea store in Richmond, B.C. July 18, 2013. More than 300 Ikea workers have been locked out of their jobs for more than two months and are striking for higher wages, more hours and improved benefits. (Jeff Vinnick For The Globe and Mail)

Rejected IKEA offer spoke to inefficiencies, company says Add to ...

The offer most recently tabled by IKEA in an ongoing labour dispute with employees at its Richmond, B.C., location addressed the unionized members’ primary contract concern and would have positioned the store for future sustainability, according to the company.

Teamsters Local Union 213 recently rejected the offer – which would have guaranteed employees a 2-per-cent increase annually and up to an additional 6 per cent if the store met annual sales targets – after three days of mediation over a two-week period. The union found the targets to be “unrealistic,” said member Dorothy Tompkins, noting they are significantly higher than the store’s typical sales.

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However, the company maintains that a sales target of $30-million more over a six-year agreement is reasonable for the store, which it says has consistently been the lowest-performing in Canada while having the highest staff costs.

IKEA Richmond’s productivity is 30 per cent below Canada’s highest performing store, in part due to the allocation of guaranteed hours and a “lack of efficiencies and flexibility” in the expired collective agreement, said IKEA spokeswoman Madeleine Lowenborg-Frick.

“The guaranteed hours … have been tied to non-peak sales periods rather than when the store needs additional support,” she said, adding that managers cannot assist scheduled staff during peak sales periods. The company is asking the Richmond store to go from being the lowest performing in the country to seventh out of 12, Ms. Lowenborg-Frick said.

That latest offer also addressed the union’s chief concern over a two-tiered wage structure in a contract offered by the company and rejected by the union earlier this year, Ms. Lowenborg-Frick said. “That was the primary barrier that brought the parties into mediation.”

The dispute came to a head in May, when the union gave strike notice after the two sides failed to come to terms on a new contract to replace a five-year pact that expired at the end of 2012. The company responded with a one-hour lockout on May 13, which the union says is ongoing. From the company’s perspective, the workers are on strike.

Mediation has now concluded and the parties remain at an impasse. No further talks are scheduled.

Meanwhile, the union has continued its 24-hour pickets as the store operates with reduced hours and a skeletal staff. The cafeteria, exchanges and returns service and Smaland, the babysitting service, are temporarily closed.

IKEA recently spent $100-million on upgrading the Jacombs Road location. The new, 19,000-square-metre store opened last year next to the site of the previous, smaller outlet.

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