Ikea Employees Strike for Better Wages in France

Ikea Flags via slimmer_jimmer on Flickr
Ikea Flags via slimmer_jimmer on Flickr
French Ikea workers have embarked on an “extended strike” in the midst of stalled contract negotiations. Up to 1,000 French Ikea employees have completely shut down one store near Paris and interrupted operations at 22 others.

“This is a historic movement, it is the first time there are so many workers on strike at IKEA France,” CGT official Olivier Bireau told Reuters.

IKEA unions want a 4 percent pay rise, compensation for staff working outdoors and more recruitment to tackle staff shortages.

The management has proposed a 2 percent rise. Negotiations are due to resume Monday but it was unclear how long the strike would last.

Financial Times reports that the government has offered to mediate the contentious strike, in which Ikea apparently has a tin ear when it comes to not sharing the fruits of the company with its hardworking employees.

That said, French unions up to now have been relatively subdued in their wage demands. But the mood is changing in France, and, arguably, Ikea, which continues to be profitable, should have picked up on this. The situation is now so far out of hand that the government is offering to mediate.

While such a mediator might provide a useful interpreter in French labour relations, it could have unwelcome consequences for Ikea. In recent months – and with important regional elections looming – politicians have not hesitated to denounce publicly those profitable foreign companies perceived to be taking advantage of French workers. Philips, for example, is now feeling the political heat for its handling of a French factory closure. Perhaps it might be in Ikea’s interest to prevent more picket lines disrupting trading at its 26 French stores.

Sure would be nice to have a country in which workers had a voice they could use without fear of losing their jobs, and a government that can step in and help both parties. But we can dream, can’t we?

Don’t forget: Ikea USA is opposed to the Employee Free Choice Act, saying they “constantly engage their co-workers about unions.”

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