Unionized workers at an IKEA store in Richmond have unanimously rejected another offer tabled by the company, resulting in an impasse as the labour dispute approaches its third month.
During three days of mediation over a two-week period, the company proposed a new pay structure that comprises a secured percentage increase and another increase based on the store’s sales and productivity goals.
However, the union found the proposed storewide sales targets – which would have been fixed in the contract and started at $20-million to $30-million more over six years than the store’s typical sales – to be unrealistic, Teamsters Local Union 213 member Dorothy Tompkins said.
“Most of the things that attribute to the sales goals are out of our control, such as stock and staffing [levels],” Ms. Tompkins said Monday. “They’re basically within management’s control. We don’t control how much stock comes into the store and whether we have the items available to sell.”
Without meeting the requirements, the union says it could take an employee 22 years to reach the top rate.
The company has maintained that the Richmond IKEA is the Swedish home-furnishing giant’s poorest performing location in Canada. However, IKEA spokeswoman Madeleine Lowenborg-Frick would not comment on how much the margins differed between locations.
The store’s 350 employees were locked out on May 13 after rejecting a contract offer that featured a revamped wage structure, including a two-tiered wage contract, and concessions to benefits and other provisions.
Under the old contract, which expired at the end of 2012, an employee could reach the top rate after four years. Under the new contract, tabled during mediation, it would take an employee between four and six years to reach the top rate – and only if they met various requirements, including the yearly sales and productivity goals, Ms. Tompkins said.
The mood among members “teeters between hopeful and pessimistic,” but the majority want to get back to work, she said.
Meanwhile, the union has continued its rotating, 24-hour pickets at the recently upgraded Jacombs Road store as it continues operation with reduced hours and a skeletal staff. The cafeteria, exchanges and returns service and Smaland play area are temporarily closed.
Thirty-two members who crossed the picket line to continue working were expelled from the union.
A spokesperson for Ikea could not be reached on Monday.
In June, departing IKEA chief executive officer Mikael Ohlsson told The Globe and Mail that Canada accounts for $1.4-billion of IKEA’s total $37-billion annual sales. The company is adding up to 10 stores a year in Canada and plans to add up to 25 stores a year beginning in 2016.
Editors' Note: A previous version of this online article and an article that appeared in print on Tuesday incorrectly said proposed storewide sales targets – which would have been fixed in the contract – started at $20-million to $30-million more per year. In fact, the $30-million increase is over the six-year agreement, not annual. This version has been corrected.