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Month July 2014

IKEA Warehouse Workers’ Struggle Is Everybody’s Struggle: Support It!

July 26, international day of struggle!

For more than six years, the warehouses of the corporations of the logistics sector have been the stage of significant struggles for decent working conditions. In these warehouses a system of exploitation prevails, based on the outsourcing of the workforce through a complex of ‘cooperatives,’ which allows the owners to organize work by eluding any forms of protection provided for by the law and by the contract. This entails arbitrary work shifts, discriminatory repartition of working hours and consequently of the salary, job on call, and a whole series of strategies robbing the workers of the hours they have worked. The well-known ready-to-assemble furniture company IKEA did not go untouched by these struggles: in mid-October 2012 the workers of the consortium of cooperatives CGS operating at the plant in Piacenza went on strike against their meager wages and for a more equal allocation of the work loads. This struggle for the plain compliance with the collective agreement and with the most basic working rights was immediately met by the opposition of CGS and IKEA, whose decision was to allow for no concessions to the workers and to weaken the workers’ strength through punitive actions and threatening to suspend, transfer and fire the workers involved. Months of struggle followed, met by the solidarity of many workers within the logistic sector at large (Tnt, Gls, Ortofin, Dhl), organized by the grassroot union Si Cobas and with the help of many activists. IKEA was then forced to reintegrate the workers, who, after extenuating negotiations including local institutions, got back to work in January 2013.

Now the Swedish company wants its revenge: at the beginning of May 2014 the cooperative San Martino, operating in the IKEA warehouse in Piacenza, launched the owners’ counter offensive, suspending 33 among the most active and unionized workers. Immediately workers from other plants and activists in Piacenza and other cities show their solidarity, in order to give strength to the main weapon in this battle: the interruption of the circulation of commodities. Equally prompt is the construction of a network of solidarity involving several cities through flyering and pickets. Given the strength of the mobilization, the owners have been forced to organize themselves in a out-and-out ‘IKEA Party’: a ‘historic bloc’ composed of institutions, political forces both in the government and in the ‘opposition,’ and confederate unions that act together to criminalize the struggle of the workers.

The attack at the IKEA workers is an attack on each and everyone who tries to stand up and fight against a crisis that is presenting its bill to those who did not contributed to it and that is putting everybody against each other, for the great convenience of the owners’ profits. It is not a coincidence that the CEO of the Italian chapter of the Swedish company has been offered the honor of being received by the central government in Rome to discuss the events at the plant in Piacenza, obtaining from this consultation a constant presence of police forces in front of the plant.

With the help of the media, compliant unions, and the embedding of the political forces, those who exploit us want to prevent, at any cost, that we collectively organize against them—instead of fighting against each other—to get what we deserve. For this reason they get together and act at various levels—spending millions!—to crush a bunch of warehouse workers. In 2013, by getting together and acting together, we fought back and beat them. This time as well, we can and we must do the same. After all, if the owners unite and ‘harmonize’ their policies, then it should follow that we start to ‘play as a team,’ that we stop our disconnected roaming and we try to open up a collective space for sharing solidarity and information on the current struggles, strengthen them, bring them on a political level that is able to talk to all the workers.

The struggle against a future of more precarious, meager and exhausting working conditions for everybody passes through Piacenza, thus we all should support it: