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Ikea vs. middle class


It will come as a surprise to most Canadians that IKEA is in a pitched battle to lower the pay of workers at its Richmond store, whose wages already fall below the poverty line in Vancouver.

After all, IKEA has a reputation of being closely tied to the Swedish model where wages are high, standards of living are good and respect for employees and their unions is a given.

In Sweden, companies with more than 125 employees are required to have a union representative on the board of directors.

As a result of this "Swedish model," Sweden's middle class is among the largest and well-off in the world. Starting wages at IKEA in Stockholm are $19 an hour with benefits and five weeks' paid holidays.

Unfortunately, IKEA is clearly less eager to export the Swedish labour model to Canada than it is cheap furniture.

In May, IKEA locked out employees at its Richmond location. The workers were not demanding significant pay increases or threatening to strike. IKEA, however, was insisting that workers accept a contract that would lower wage rates by as much as four dollars per hour. IKEA's offer also cut benefits.

Why should you care? Every time a rich company like IKEA is successful in replacing decent paying jobs with low-wage marginal jobs, Canada's shrinking middle class is made even more vulnerable.

The workers' fight at IKEA is a fight for Canada's middle class, for decent wages and for a good quality of living for all of us.

Jim Sinclair


B.C. Federation of Labour

  • ufcw [at] ufcw247 [dot] com