Montreal IKEA workers picket Saturday after last-minute strike vote

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Workers at IKEA's Montreal store took part in an unexpected strike on Saturday. Negotiations are expected to resume next week, the union says.  (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press - image credit)
Workers at IKEA's Montreal store took part in an unexpected strike on Saturday. Negotiations are expected to resume next week, the union says. (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press - image credit)

Unionized workers at IKEA's Montreal store took part in an abrupt strike on Saturday, following a dispute over work uniforms the day before.

The furniture store remained open but its food counters, returns counter and curbside pickup were shuttered as a result, the Swedish multinational said.

The 500 unionized workers at the store have been without a contract since last December. Confédération des syndicats nationaux has been in negotiations with IKEA since March, with low salaries among its top concerns, union representative Guillaume Vézina said.

A last-minute strike vote was called on Friday night after the workers decided to show up to their shifts that day without their uniforms and were refused work, he said.

"Yesterday, the workers wanted [to] further their pressure tactics," Vézina said Saturday night. "When they came in at 7 a.m. that morning, the employer decided to send them home saying they can't work without [their uniforms]. About 50 to 60 workers regrouped in front of the IKEA after that."

New hires start at $15.60 per hour for at least their first three years. The union wants that raised to $18 per hour.

The workers also voted in favour of eight additional strike days to come at a later date, depending on how negotiations go moving forward.

Negotiations have also centred on health and safety protocols, Vézina said, as well as the hiring of subcontractors, who the union claims have taken on work typically assigned to unionized workers.

The union will be returning to the negotiating table sometime next week, he said.

Saturday's strike goes until midnight. IKEA said it's not expecting any more disruptions by Sunday.

"We are in conciliation with the union and it is our intent to continue to engage in productive dialogue to come to a new collective agreement," IKEA said in a statement Saturday afternoon.

"IKEA supports our IKEA Montreal co-workers' choice to have collective representation."

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