Thursday, 15 October 2020

Solidarity with Richie Venton sacked by Ikea for defending workers' rights - please sign the petition


ATUC sends our support and solidarity to Richie Venton, USDAW steward, sacked by IKEA for standing up for workers’ health and livelihoods in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and for carrying out the duties that any decent elected trade union representative would. 

Please sign the petiton to reinstate Richie Venton and to demand wages for sick workers at Ikea.

Since February, Richie consistently argued that anyone off sick or self-isolating from the worst killer pandemic in a century should receive their full 100% average wage - not to be put on company sick benefit; not to be penalised with sick absence points; not to be excluded entirely from IKEA sick benefit for exceeding the points threshold, but to get their full average wages.

Richie argued this was essential to prevent workers facing an impossible choice of financial ruin on £95 a week Statutory Sick Pay or ruination of their health and that of others by dragging themselves into work, potentially infecting a workforce of 540 people.

When IKEA – who made £11.2bn profits in 2019 - announced that from 1st June wages would be removed from workers absent due to COVID-19, Richie repeated this case and then informed union members who had elected me as their shop steward and convenor, of company plans and his opposition to these as their union representative.

For that Richie was sacked, on a trumped-up charge of “breach of confidentiality”.

This is Union victimisation, to clear the path to even worse attacks on the rights and conditions of IKEA staff. It’s no accident that Richie had built union membership to the highest level in any IKEA store in UK and Ireland; to more than twice the density of the second best-organised store. 

About a week after Richie had been silenced and then sacked, IKEA rolled out a vicious new sick absence policy - to be enforced from 1st of September - which means workers will not get one penny of IKEA sick benefit after 2 absences in a year, or after 10 days total over the 12 months. They’ll have to cope on £95 SSP.

At first this policy included Coronavirus absences.It was a recipe for disaster, disease and potentially even death.

After Richie's sacking, union members met, voted unanimously demanding his reinstatement and reversal of these brutal new company policies, and called for a strike ballot.

The massive publicity which followed and the tidal wave of solidarity from right across the trade union movement, has forced IKEA into a partial retreat. They’ve removed Coronavirus absences from this punishing policy.

It’s no accident this U-turn was declared on 28th August, the very same day the Daily Record front page exposed the truth behind Richie's sacking and IKEA's brutal sick policy.

Richie said, "This is a partial victory for the stance I’ve taken, the solidarity of union members in IKEA Glasgow, and the vast solidarity surrounding the Reinstate Richie Venton campaign.

"It means every IKEA worker in the UK and Ireland at least now has the reassurance of being paid company sick benefits based on their contract hours, without exclusion through any points threshold, for COVID-19 absences.

"However, the vicious new absence policy  - which could mean somebody off work a total of 2 days on two separate occasions being chucked onto £95 SSP - still remains for all other illnesses. And I remain sacked, deprived of my income.

"Over 8,000 people have signed the secure online petition demanding my reinstatement; over 300 trade unionists, ranging from reps and activists to national leaders, have signed the Joint Trade Union Statement initiated by Strathclyde UCU; and 49 MPs from 5 different parties have signed the Early Day Motion lodged at Westminster by Chris Stephens MP.

"A collection of Union branches has decided to establish a campaign and hardship fund, called the Scottish Workers Solidarity Fund.

"I am the first shop steward from any Union in Scotland sacked for resisting dangerous company policies in the midst of the Coronavirus. But unless IKEA's Union busting is defeated, other employers will follow suit, as they join the race to the bottom on job cuts, pay cuts, reductions in health and safety, under cover of the Coronavirus crisis.

"My case highlights the appalling poverty of sick pay in the UK, and the need for united action to win full average wages for any sick worker - for ANY illness.

"Workers relying on £95 a week – which, in any case, 2 million are excluded from because they are below the £120 Lower Earnings Threshold, and which every self-employed worker is denied - is a recipe for increased illness and disaster as COVID-19 surges again.

"We need to unite to defend workers’ health, not bosses’ wealth"

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Go to ReinstateRichieVenton.com website for Campaign updates, motions passed in other unions, the Online Secure Petition, etc.

Email requests for a speaker, messages of solidarity, and pledges of donations to the Scottish Workers Solidarity Fund to reinstaterichieventon@protonmail.com

 

 

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