Despite all the Coronavirus restrictions and people’s well-founded fears of the virus, plus another outburst of monsoon weather early Saturday morning, the protests outside IKEA stores on 24th October, demanding the reinstatement of Richie Venton, were a roaring success.
Warrington Trades Union Council adapted to the very strict local Covid regulations by not leafleting shoppers, but staging a display of banners and ReinstateRichieVenton placards.
The RMT, Unite and local Trades Union Council were on display at IKEA’s flagship store – the first ever opened in the UK. One shopper passed on her thanks to Richie from Warrington, “because at last somebody is doing something about all this.”
Trade unionists from UNISON, EIS, Unite and EIS-FELA were amongst the lively crowd at the Edinburgh store, handing out leaflets and handing out messages on the megaphone. Senior management must by now realise the protests are not about to fade away! Trade unionists from as far away as the Borders and Stirling made the journey to show their solidarity.
The demonstration at Glasgow IKEA, where Richie was sacked from, was the biggest of the four held there so far.
Joining the stalwarts who have attended three previous protests were several fresh delegations, from Unite, GMB and Fire Brigades Union, and increased numbers of individuals in other union contingents.
Banners and flags were proudly held aloft by USDAW reps; RMT; UCU; EIS-FELA; Glasgow City UNISON branch; UNISON Housing & Care Scotland branch; CWU, and Clydebank Trades Union Council – who are also holding a Zoom public meeting with Richie and the RMT’s Scottish Organiser Gordon Martin speaking, on Monday 26th October at 7pm.
Trade unionists travelled from Glasgow, Motherwell, Clydebank, Stirling, Ayrshire and the Isle of Arran to show their angry determination to win Richie’s reinstatement to his job and position as Union convenor. And to join him in the wider struggle for full average wages for anyone either off sick, in self-isolation, or laid off through COVID-19 restrictions or redundancies.
As Richie spelt out in a hard-hitting speech that rallied the crowd at the assembly point,
“My battle is part of a much wider struggle against employers who take a bung from the state to subsidize wages and profits, but then when that has dried up, seek to drive down wages, drive down jobs, drive down sick pay, and hammer workers’ rights. They try to drive workers down onto their knees. But to quote the mighty workers’ leader Jim Larkin, ‘the great only appear great because we are on our knees. Let us arise.’ Let us stand up like working men and women to defend our lives from the assaults by the profiteers.”
Car and bus horns hooted repeatedly as the protest rallied and then marched round into IKEA’s car park, where speakers from the UCU, FBU, UNITE and GMB addressed the queues of shoppers and listening IKEA workers. Several shoppers left the queues on hearing the truth about IKEA’s union-busting atrocity.
In what’s become a ritual, IKEA management wasted police time by calling them out to a perfectly peaceful, good-natured but high-spirited demo, only for the police to chat to the workers’ protest, treating them with friendly sympathy, smiling at the speeches being belted out. IKEA workers smiled their approval at the protest and its messages, including chants of “We don’t want your flat pack – until we get Richie back!”
An hour or so later, the proud, united crowd of trade unionists marched up and down in front of the IKEA store and then departed as one. They left more determined than ever to escalate the campaign against Richie’s victimisation and the attack on sick workers.
This was not only the biggest of the Glasgow protests so far, but by far the noisiest.
It left an unavoidable message for IKEA’s senior bosses: you won’t get away with this, and you ain’t seen nothing yet!