Torrential rain storms did nothing to dampen the fighting spirits of the trade unionists who turned out to protest at six separate IKEA stores across the UK today, 3rd October, demanding reinstatement of sacked shop steward Richie Venton and full average wages for all sick workers.
One of the wettest days this year – north, south, east and west – sometimes accompanied by howling winds, could not deter their determination to resist IKEA’s Union busting and attacks on workers’ conditions under cover of the Coronavirus. It was so wet that some photographs captured reflections of Union banners on the rain-soaked IKEA car park!
Members of a multitude of unions participated in the simultaneous shows of solidarity; including RMT, Unite, UCU, USDAW, GMB, UNISON, FBU, CWU, EIS, EIS-FELA, IWW, and Trades Union Councils from Southampton, Leeds, Warrington and Clydebank.
As it should be, the demonstration outside Richie’s own former workplace in Glasgow was by far the biggest – and in fact despite the downpour was the best attended of all three Union solidarity demonstrations held there so far. The solidarity is growing, with new delegations joining those who’ve been to previous protests.
The organisers invited Richie to make an impromptu appearance and address the rally, before it marched into IKEA’s car park, banners proudly held aloft. Thanking the crowd, Richie joked that solidarity is not weather dependent, which is just as well given he’s lived in County Fermanagh, Liverpool and then Glasgow!
Richie went to say:
“Over the decade I’ve spoken at many workers’ meetings and visited many picket lines, offering solidarity of those in struggle. But it’s only when you are in the thick of it, directly at the receiving end employers injustice, that you realise just how much such expressions of solidarity really mean.
“It means you are not alone. It means you’re part of a wider movement of the working class. It means you are doing the right thing – even sometimes despite personal sacrifice – because what you’re standing up for is in the interests of the wider workers’ movement.”
As Richie spoke at the assembly point, most passing cars hooted their support, and a series of bus drivers avoided pulling in to allow the trade unionists room to rally on the pavement and bus stop. Little signs of solidarity.
An impressive array of trade unionists spoke at the assembly and then in the IKEA car park, under senior management’s noses, about their support for Richie, based both on his track record and the issues he has fought on in this battle with IKEA.
These included Brian Garvey, UCU branch chair; Gordon Martin RMT, Scottish regional organiser; John Kelly EIS-FELA executive; Naomi Junnor, Glasgow UNISON steward; and a Unite shop steward from Warrington, who is on holiday with his wife in Glasgow, got wind of the demo and spoke to the assembled protesters and shopping queues!
Everyone left these demonstrations from the four compass points of the UK drenched to the skin but with uplifted feelings of solidarity and determination to win.
Sources close to IKEA senior management have told us of increasingly frantic meetings searching for ways to defuse the wave of anger and solidarity, both inside and outside the workplaces. They are gradually retreating in disarray, trying to cover their tracks and deceive the workforce, as they make concessions under the fire from every angle.
Petitions, protests, press exposes and Parliamentary questions are showing up their dirty tricks and building a solidarity movement determined to fight on until victory.
As a next step the Reinstate Richie Venton campaign has organised an online rally this Thursday 8th of October at 7 p.m. With an impressive mix of speakers, including national union leaders, rank-and-file workers in struggle, and Richie himself. Book your free tickets now to guarantee your place.