Trade union activists are stepping up the battle for reinstatement of leading worker representative Richie Venton from IKEA. Mike Picken reports from Glasgow.
Richie is a well known longstanding socialist and trade unionist who represents workers organised in the USDAW shop workers’ union at the IKEA store in the busy Braehead shopping area near Glasgow. He is also an elected Scottish representative on the National Executive of USDAW.
In August Richie alerted his members in IKEA Glasgow to management’s intention of not paying workers who were self-isolating due to potential Covid-19 symptoms. He was sacked for an alleged breach of confidence,
The proposal not to pay workers by IKEA management was in direct contradiction to the Scottish government and even the UK government’s calls for employers to behave responsibly during the pandemic. It could force people back into the workplace and risk spreading the virus,
Much of Greater Glasgow has since been moved into special restrictions by the Scottish Government due to the increasingly high incidence of Covid-19. Since his sacking IKEA has reversed the policy and will now pay workers self-isolated – they sacked Richie for his ‘crime’ of telling the workers about a policy they have withdrawn!
IKEA’s backdown on pay is a victory for the union members who met in August to oppose the management plans. But Richie remains sacked and so the campaign for his reinstatement is building up momentum.
If Richie’s sacking is allowed to stand it gives the green light to every employer to sack trade union representatives when it comes to changing conditions, wages or negotiating redundancies as a result of the current pandemic crisis.
Over 6,000 people have signed the online petition to demand IKEA reinstate Richie and his case has been regularly covered by the Scottish Daily Record, the Morning Star and Tribune.
Several dozen trade unionists from across trade unions in Glasgow gathered at IKEA on 4 September for a socially distanced protest and leafletting of customers. Unions represented included the RMT transport workers, university lecturers in the UCU, college and school teachers in the EIS union, members of CWU, Unite and Unison, and others. Glasgow Labour councillor Matt Kerr also attended and has spoken in Richie’s support.
The protest received a warm response from shoppers and passers-by and was reported in the media, firing a warning to the IKEA management. A protest has also been held in Richie’s hometown of Fermanagh in Ireland. Further protests are being considered. A report was carried in the recent TUC edition of the Morning Star.
Local Glasgow Members of Parliament at Westminster have rallied round to support Richie and have tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons, which has received increasing support from MPs. Most SNP MPs have signed the EDM and it has also been taken up by Labour MPs such as Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Ian Lavery. Several newly elected Labour MPs from Merseyside where Richie was active before living in Scotland have also signed. However, the vast majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party have not yet signed the EDM, despite many of them being trade union sponsored. If you live in a constituency with a Labour MP, please get them to sign now.
On September 8th, Chris Stephens, the MP for Glasgow South West, who is also a union activist and convenor of the SNP Trade Union Group, raised Richie’s case on the floor of the House of Commons in questions to Matt Hancock, UK government health minister.
Richie’s case raises fundamental questions of trade union rights during this pandemic. The trade union and labour movement needs to rally round Richie Venton with massive solidarity and support – ‘an injury to one is an injury to all!’
- Sign the petition and encourage others to sign through social media https://reinstaterichieventon.com/petition/
- Pass a motion supporting the campaign and declaring solidarity in your union or Labour Party branch, and send it to the campaign and onward within your organisation.
- Get your local MP to sign the Early Day Motion #797 in the name of Chris Stephens MP, especially if they are a Labour MP. https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/57364/reinstatement-of-ikea-shop-steward-richie-venton
- If you live near an IKEA store contact the campaign to find out what you can do to help locally. firstname.lastname@example.org