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An IKEA building

An IKEA building. Photo: Barry Shimmon, CC BY-SA 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

The victory for the campaign to reinstate sacked trade unionist Richie Venton and restore sick pay shows what workers organising can achieve, writes Chris Neville

Several months ago, Glasgow Ikea sacked Usdaw union rep, Richie Venton for an alleged breach of confidentiality after he informed his colleagues of the company's plans to withdraw sick pay.

Local trade unionists quickly launched a campaign for Venton's reinstatement that received nationwide support and saw a wave of protests organised outside Ikea stores all over the UK.

Ikea has now awarded Venton a pay-out to avoid the case going to an employment tribunal. This represents a victory of sorts for Venton but as we have repeatedly seen, high-profile trade unionists often find it hard to obtain future work as bosses protect their interests by avoiding hiring anyone they suspect will organise and fight for their fellow workers.

The campaign to reinstate Richie Venton released an update on their website which was critical of the lack of support from Usdaw's national officials who they say were slow to act.

The outcome of this campaign does show that when trade unionists work together, they can fight unjust practices and make gains for workers. The protests staged outside the Ikea stores had members of numerous trade unions in attendance. Local trades councils orchestrated action outside Ikea stores in several other towns and cities and the campaign was able to gain media coverage which helped expose Ikea's callous scheme to put the burden of coronavirus sick pay onto its employees.

This also helped to pressurise Ikea into reversing its decision around not paying those workers self-isolating and the company soon dropped the plans to force them onto statutory sick pay.

Richie Venton deserves our respect and admiration for taking a principled stance against the greedy practices Ikea tried to implement and fighting them every step of the way. Ikea is just one of a worryingly large number of companies that have tried to shift any coronavirus-related hit to their profits onto their workers. Trade unionists must continue to resist any further attempts to do so, wherever they work.

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