Four workers have been hospitalized after riots took place in front of the gates of the Ikea plant in Piacenza this morning (November 2). The plant is the Swedish corporation’s main Italian storage centre and its workers are nominally employed by several cooperatives. However, as is often the case in Italy, the name ‘cooperative’ hides a dire reality of exploitation, the ignoring of labour regulations and of national collective agreements.
It is precisely this reality that struggling workers (many of them migrants) are denouncing, with a strike that has now been ongoing for several days. Their press release lists serious issues such as wage inequality, excessive workload, unpaid wages, not to mention the firm’s refusal to allow union representation.
IKEA’s headquarters immediately retaliated by firing 12 workers, deemed as the main organizers of the protests. Nine of them are members of the independent Union COBAS. Violent clashes had already taken place on October 30, when police intervened to clear the workers blockade – aiming at preventing loading trucks from entering the plant and, ultimately, at stopping production. Something similar occurred on the morning of November 2, when police violently attacked the protesting workers with teargas and batons.
Later in the afternoon, the Mayoral Office of Piacenza hosted a negotiation. At the end of the talks, representatives of the cooperatives promised not to fire the 12 workers involved; however, they announced that they would transfer the workers to other IKEA plants. COBAS deems this agreement unacceptable; among other things, it would cost them their entire union representation in the Piacenza plant.