"It's not an equal fight." Trade unions do not let IKEA out of Russia without payments to employees

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"It's not an equal fight." Trade unions do not let IKEA out of Russia without payments to employees
"It's not an equal fight." Trade unions do not let IKEA out of Russia without payments to employees
28 June, 10:00BusinessPhoto: IKEA
A conflict is brewing in the workforce of IKEA, which has announced its withdrawal from Russia. Trade union activists are urging employees of shops and enterprises of the Swedish company not to agree to compensation and not to sign agreements on dismissal. What this can lead to - in the material of Novye Izvestia.

Alexander Dybin

Trade union leaders called on IKEA employees to refuse to sign agreements with the employer, according to which employees receive compensation in the amount of 7-8 salaries and leave without claims to the company. As Alexander Illarionov, organizer of the timber industry trade union, told Novye Izvestia, workers who do not agree to the company's terms can get more, and most importantly, they will have a chance to keep their jobs and their previous standard of living.

According to the activist, now the management of IKEA stores and factories is holding individual meetings with employees, where they are offered to sign a paper that they will be resigning from September with compensation. But the agreements are drawn up with clauses that will allow you to pay nothing to employees.

“Employees are told: agree or there will be no second chance”, - says Illarionov, “but the agreements that they offer to sign contain clauses on disciplinary sanctions. Perhaps this is done so that people remain loyal to the company to the end. But if you search well, violations can be found in everyone, which means that there are risks regarding these compensations”.

What happens if the employee refuses to sign the agreement? According to Alexander Illarionov, if there are a lot of such people, that Ikea will have to reduce staff, this procedure also provides for serious payments to employees, and most importantly, job guarantees. It is the guarantees of employment that are the main goal of the activity of the trade union. In total, IKEA employs 15,000 people. Most of them are store employees. Several thousand work in furniture and components manufacturing plants. The latter have clearer prospects: it has already been announced that the enterprises will be sold. Therefore, trade unions want to conclude collective agreements in order to fix the current conditions: the level of wages, voluntary medical insurance, etc. by law, the new owner will have to comply with these conditions.

“In addition, we don’t know how much IKEA is leaving, and what are the conditions for the sale of assets: they will sell the plants to different buyers or one, or maybe they will temporarily transfer them, and return in a year”, - Illarionov says, “so that people don’t lose anything, we need collective agreements. It's more difficult with store employees. It was announced that they would just close. But in Russia there is a precedent when a trading company leaves on good terms, Mango transfers its team to a new owner with the same conditions. If this does not happen in the case of IKEA, then at least people can expect much more compensation than 7-8 salaries".

Conversations with store teams should be completed before the end of the month. And it is not yet clear how many people have joined this boycott. Trade union activists are now working in every store who are ready to advise workers or even participate in conversations with them. Alexander Illarionov acknowledges that there is some risk. The decision to sign the papers now and take the money, which is 250-300 thousand rubles, depending on the position and length of service, looks like a tit in the hand. But success will depend on the mass character of the phenomenon.

“This should be a deliberate decision by everyone,” says the activist, “we see that young people are more likely to agree to money now. But there are those who say that parents advise not to sign anything. Those who lived through the 90s, got paid with vodka, know that a guaranteed job is better than a certain amount of money. The company wants to go easy. Formally, it does not violate anything. But in fact, unfair conditions are offered. The governors say we have no cuts due to the IKEA situation. Yes, formally no, but where did the people go? In addition, we see manipulation when, in the same stores, meetings with collectives were announced several hours in advance in order to catch them by surprise. It doesn't break anything, but it's a tactical move. It's an uphill battle as the company carefully prepared all of these steps. And we fight as best we can".

As Novye Izvestia previously reported, IKEA in mid-June announced its withdrawal from Russia, the sale of four factories and the closure of more than a dozen stores. Previously, the company sent labor collectives to idle time. Employees were asked to receive 7-8 salaries and leave by agreement of the parties. In addition, IKEA announced the sale of goods accumulated in Russia. Until July 1, only employees can buy it, then an open on-line sale will begin.

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