On January 3rd, porters and stores workers at IKEA and subcontracted cooperatives in Piacenza again blocked the entrance to the warehouse.
The workers have been fighting for over two months against the politically-motivated firing of 12 of their colleagues, in defense of their rights and salary, as well as protesting violations of the national collective agreement. The news was covered on this website at the time here and here.
Over the past two months, in spite of an uphill battle against the giant furniture company, workers in loading & unloading, logistics and goods distribution have led a nation-wide struggle with initiatives taking place all over Italy. A small and symbolic demonstration also took place in a IKEA store in Stockholm.
The picket of the warehouse in Piacenza on Thursday morning was mounted by workers of the cooperatives and other loading & unloading workers together with political activists. Unlike previous pickets, the large attendance prevented the police from reacting with violence. It is likely that IKEA and its subcontracted cooperatives did not expect the protest: as a strike had already been called for the next day, the maximum amount of work was planned for January 3rd. The blockade therefore caused a large queue of trucks to build up.
The unsustainable situation and the economic interests involved led IKEA to act. Eventually, the head of IKEA in Piacenza met the workers at the gates and promised to put pressure on the subcontracted cooperatives to reinstate the workers fired in November.
A meeting between representatives of the city of Piacenza and local police, the unions and the companies involved is scheduled for Monday, January 7th.
While a victory may seem in sight for the workers, IKEA may still resort to formal re-hiring but with different terms and conditions, on the grounds of the current economic circumstances. These could include full-time employment but on rotation, or a smaller compensation wage. If so, this would be despite the company’s increase in market share in the delivered goods sector across Europe in 2012.