Ikea’s turkish labor issue


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IKEA’s largely autonomous operation in Turkey is moving to guard the Swedish furniture giant’s reputation by threatening legal action against a local labor union that has staged a bitter campaign painting the company as a corporate bully looking to prevent workers from organizing.

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Ikea’s turkish labor issue

  1. 1. IKEA’s Turkish Labor IssueISTANBUL—IKEA’s largely autonomous operation in Turkey is moving to guard the Swedish furnituregiant’s reputation by threatening legal action against a local labor union that has staged a bittercampaign painting the company as a corporate bully looking to prevent workers from organizing.The dispute dates back to late 2011 and stems from claims made by Turkey’s Koop-Is union, whichalready represents hundreds of IKEA workers.On Saturday, more than 1,000 demonstrators gathered on an empty plot of land across from one ofIKEA’s stores, with protesters causing traffic jams as they walked along the road while carrying anti-IKEAslogans.Koop-Is alleges the company has tried to pressure workers not to join the union, and thus preventing itfrom reaching a majority representation where it could achieve collective bargaining, by dismissing ordemoting employees who sign up and downgrading their performance reviews.IKEA Turkey says the allegations aren’t fair and is threatening to take legal action against Koop-Is,recently firing off a warning letter. The union has responded by threatening to stage moredemonstrations in front of more stores.IKEA has about 2,000 employees and five stores in Turkey, including two locations in Istanbul. Thestores are operated by independent franchisee Mapa Mobilya.The company, known for its blue and yellow branding, has labored in recent years to cultivate animage as a family friendly furniture retailer based on a Swedish heritage that values togetherness,respect and humility. The firm has at times been quick to respond to public pressure related to itsbusiness practices.Still, IKEA has raised some concerns. Earlier this year, IKEA dismissed four French managers whoallegedly spied on company staffers. And union disputes at its Virginia manufacturing plant have madeheadlines in the U.S.Koop-Is represents a broad swath of Turkey’s employee base—from farmers’ cooperatives to teachersto rail workers. It also represents about one-third of IKEA employees here, but needs significantlymore to join in order to secure collective bargaining rights.During Saturday’s demonstration, Koop-Is Chairman Eyup Alemdar accused IKEA managers ofencouraging employees to spy on one another and said the company has called the homes of workerspressuring them not to join his union. He also said IKEA has dismissed or demoted employees whojoin the union, and downgraded their performance reviews.The allegations are “unfounded” and “groundless,” according to an emailed statement from IKEATurkey. The statement characterized the claims by Koop-Is as being damaging to IKEA’s brandreputation.“IKEA Turkey does not have the option to remain ambivalent against unreal propaganda that isdisrupting the calm and peace of the work environment, because of these statements against the lawand truth, the firm is mobilizing to use its right to appeal to legal means,” said IKEA Turkey in thestatement. The company said it remains open to having discussions on the issue.
  2. 2. A Koop-Is official said the union hasn’t heard anything from IKEA since the letter warning of legalaction was sent last week, and said the company’s position is “completely imaginary and has no legalvalidity.” This person didn’t want to be named because they aren’t authorized to speak on behalf of theunion.The union will wait 10 to 15 days to see if IKEA Turkey’s position changes. If it doesn’t, “the firstforeseeable action is to spread the demonstrations to all five cities where IKEA has stores,” the unionofficial said.If Saturday’s demonstration in Istanbul is any indication, further protests will continue to attractattention. The protest was held by union members who showed up to signal solidarity with IKEAemployees who didn’t demonstrate over concerns about safety, according to union officials. Asprotesters marched with signs that displayed slogans like “Oppression won’t daunt us,” a bus deckedwith a platform above its roof blasted out anti-employer music from loudspeakers.Eventually, demonstrators were linked together in a traditional Anatolian folk dance, holding hands toform a long line and step-dancing in a circle to the tune of the zurna—a Turkish shrill pipe—and thebeat of a bass drum. People then assembled into a column behind the bus and headed to the frontentrance of IKEA, blocking Istanbul’s already congested traffic at roundabouts as they waved Turkishflags and blew whistles.Police monitored the scene.Alke Boessiger, the head of the commerce division at Uni Global Union, which represents 20 millionservice workers in 150 countries through 900 affiliated unions, said in a telephone interview this weekthat the organization will meet with IKEA officials on Friday as part of a series of meetings scheduledevery few months. The labor situation in Turkey will be a main agenda item, and she will look for IKEAofficials to outline a plan to put pressure on its Istanbul-based local management.“The problem we have is that the franchise is run by Mapa Mobilya, the position they’re taking andtelling the global firm is that they are a local Turkish company and they can do whatever they like andthey don’t need to comply with IKEA’s global standards,” Ms. Boessiger said.“We’re saying for us it doesn’t matter who owns or runs the stores,” she said. “It says IKEA on the doorand IKEA respects workers’ rights and collective bargaining, and we expect them to apply that to alltheir operations world-wide no matter who runs it.”Ylva Magnusson, a spokeswoman for IKEA’s global operations, said the company respects the rightsof its workers to organize and welcomes dialogue with a collection of global unions. She said IKEA“will not facilitate a preference for any co-worker association.”Source : Turkey Furniture