In May, 2013 Teamsters-represented workers in British Columbia were locked out of their jobs at home-furnishing retailer Ikea in a contract dispute over pay.
However, the lockout has morphed into a battle that is no longer about pay—but whether the union can force the company to fire the three dozen former members who crossed their picket lines.
About 300 members of Teamsters Local 213 have been surviving on strike pay — the equivalent of about half their wages — since mid-May 2013 and are convinced the Swedish home furnishings giant is out to try and break the union now that they feel the matter has reached an impasse.
At issue is the status of 35 or so unionized workers who returned to their jobs early in the dispute. They have been expelled by the union which has demanded they be removed from the workplace before the union workers return to their jobs, should an agreement be reached.
“There has not been a case in B.C. history where a government agency has intervened and fired people for legally doing their own job,” she wrote, adding last December Ikea suggested that all workers return to their jobs under the terms of the expired collective agreement while parties resumed negotiations.
Löwenborg-Frick claims that the union’s demands have shifted during the dispute, leaving some critical issues outstanding.
“Despite this fact, the Teamsters claim Ikea has bargained to an impasse over the employees the union wants terminated,” she wrote. “Ikea has continued to introduce proposals to meet the issues the Teamsters had originally outlined as the primary reasons for this strike. However, terminating employees for legally returning to perform their own job is unacceptable to Ikea and is legally unprecedented.” [Emphasis added.]
According to the ichmond News, Ikea and the Teamsters are next heading to mediation..