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Protest at IKEA Venton. Photo: Chris Neville

Protest at IKEA Venton. Photo: Chris Neville

IKEA’s firing of an Usdaw rep for challenging the withdrawal of sick pay during a pandemic was met with protests in Glasgow and other stores, reports Chris Neville

Six IKEA Stores across the UK were hit with protests this weekend as trade union activists fought for the reinstatement of sacked Usdaw representative Richie Venton.

Venton, a worker of twelve years at the Glasgow store, was sacked from his job after fighting against IKEA's withdrawal of sick pay for workers absent due to Covid-19.

As well as the main protest outside the Glasgow store, local trades councils in London, Edinburgh, Leeds, Southampton and Warrington mobilised activists outside their closest IKEA stores.

In Glasgow, dozens of activists waited outside the bus stop on the main road for Venton, who turned up to loud cheers before making a speech to the crowd. During the speech, he thanked those who had turned out to raise awareness and more than 8,000 people who had supported the online petition for his reinstatement.

The crowd marched through the car park towards the front of the store where many of them made speeches in support of the Usdaw rep. Despite the pouring rain, there was a long queue of shoppers waiting to enter the store and speakers addressed them directly, asking them to raise the issue as customers with the management when they entered the store.

IKEA, by cutting the sick pay of workers symptomatic of Covid-19 are the latest in a long line of companies seeking to shift the financial burden of the pandemic onto their staff. As we have seen with other disputes during the pandemic, these companies are targeting individual trade unionists as a way to weaken resistance to the changes they make.

Cutting sick pay during a pandemic puts workers and customers at risk. In such a situation, workers are forced to pick between struggling financially or risking the health of themselves and the general public. If IKEA is allowed to get away with these actions, it will embolden other companies to follow suit. This makes it all the more imperative these battles are won.

A website, https://reinstaterichieventon.com has been created to track the latest developments in the campaign.

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