AN INSPIRING DAY OF WORKERS’ UNITY IN ACTION: simultaneous protest pickets at 3 IKEA sites
“I found it inspirational.”
“It was like a revival of the trade unions.”
“It was a pleasure to see people coming together from across the movement.”
Those are just three of the comments from three different trade unionists from three different towns who took part in three simultaneous protests outside IKEA stores in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Warrington.
They were all demanding reinstatement of sacked shop steward and convenor at the Glasgow IKEA store, Richie Venton.
They all saw the link between Richie’s fight for full average wages for all sick workers – to avoid people being driven into work infecting others because they could not afford to survive on £95 statutory sick pay – with the wider struggles to put workers’ health before profit.
Called at short notice, the three demonstrations found a warm response from shoppers, some of whom afterwards posted the leaflet on social media, pledging ” Now I know about this, I’ll never shop there again until he’s reinstated.”
The range of trade union banners and flags was truly inspirational.
At Warrington – IKEA’s first ever store in Britain – workers with banners from the Blacklist Support Group, Warrington Trades Council, RMT, Unite and USDAW assembled to leaflet shoppers in their cars.
A building worker had taken the day off work, with the accompanying loss of earnings, to help organise the solidarity picket. Three members of USDAW’s Executive Council took part: Andrea Watts, Chris Winwood and the national president, Amy Murphy.
Warrington Trades Council is determined to continue the campaign for Richie’s reinstatement and full wages for sick workers.
The Edinburgh protest attracted activists from UNISON, RMT, CWU, EIS, USDAW, and Unite, and made some of those taking part ay they feel a new revival of united trade union struggle is emerging.
The crowd gathered at Braehead Glasgow was even bigger and broader in its spread of workplaces than the first demonstration outside Richie’s former workplace, two weeks ago. It included delegations from UCU, CWU, Fire Brigades Union, USDAW, RMT, EIS, several UNISON branches, GMB, Unite and the IWW.
The offshore workers’ RMT branch secretary had driven all the way from Aberdeen to fly the flag of workers’ solidarity.
The organisers invited Richie at the last minute to address the demonstration as it assembled on the main road, outside the workers’ garden he had negotiated for the workforce years ago. His fighting speech on the broader issues involved, and message that “I’ve lost my income but not my dignity nor my principles” inspired all those present to redouble their efforts.
Chris Stephens MP spoke, accusing IKEA of sacking Richie because of him being an extremely effective Union representative who had organised by far the biggest trade union membership of any IKEA store in Britain or Ireland.
Coordinating the protest, David McKee of the UCU warned that if a high-profile union activist like Richie is sacked without a response by the entire trade union movement, then other Union activists will be next. He warned that other companies would be watching to see if IKEA got away with this outrageous victimisation.
Kendra of UCU exposed the hypocrisy of IKEA claims across nine countries to put people’s health and safety first and foremost.
The three simultaneous protests were a massive success and an escalation of the pressure on IKEA to reinstate Richie, whose only crime has been to stand up for members’ health and well-being.
Everyone who participated fed back the feeling of being emboldened, encouraged and inspired by this cross-union solidarity, and pledged their determination to continue to fight to reinstate Richie Venton and win full wages for sick workers.
We are not going away!