Ikea unions fight for global labour standards

Ikea trade union leaders from around the world met in Istanbul on Tuesday to launch a global alliance to standardize labour practices in every store in the Swedish furniture chain.

Ikea unions fight for global labour standards

“We want the good practices applied to Ikea workers in many countries to be implemented all over the world,” Alke Boessiger, head of the UNI Global Union which organized the gathering, told AFP.

Even though conditions in many Ikea stores were relatively worker-friendly, she said, in some countries local company managements were preventing workers from joining unions and undermining their rights.

The alliance unites delegates from 20 unions which chose Istanbul to show solidarity with a Turkish union that says it has been trying to sign a collective agreement for Ikea workers since 2010.

Ikea has five stores and 1,700 workers in Turkey, but the staff majority required by Turkish law to bargain for a collective agreement had not been reached, a spokesman for the Turkish Koop-Is labour body told AFP.

“Why we cannot get more workers to sign up is simply the intimidation from the local management, which threatens workers with lack of promotions, harder shifts or even dismissal,” said the spokesman, Deniz Akdogan.

The management of the company, Mapa Mobilya (Furnishing House), could not immediately be reached for comment.

The alliance is to publish a report Thursday on Ikea management practices in stores all over the world.

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Ikea will buy back your used furniture at up to half the price

In the run-up to what would in normal times be the festive season sales rush, Ikea has vowed to buy back used furniture from customers to resell – and pay up to 50 percent of the original price.

Ikea will buy back your used furniture at up to half the price
Got any pieces of Ikea furniture at home? You may be able to get rid of it and get money back. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Ikea, the world's largest furniture chain, said Tuesday it would begin buying back used furniture from customers to resell – and pay up to 50 percent of the original price.

The “Buy Back Friday” scheme, timed to coincide with the “Black Friday” pre-Christmas retail frenzy, will run from November 24th and until December 3rd in 27 countries.

“Rather than buy things you don't need this Black Friday, we want to help customers give their furniture a second life instead of making an impulse buy,” said Stefan Vanoverbeke, deputy retail operations manager at Ingka Group, Ikea's parent company.

To address concerns its affordable, flat-pack products encourage overconsumption and waste, the Swedish company had previously said it would start renting and recycling furniture as part of an eco-drive.

Under its buyback scheme, the group said that “anything that can't be resold will be recycled or donated to community projects to help those most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

“Some countries like Australia and Canada for example are currently testing different buyback services, but BuyBack Friday will be the first time that 27 countries do this together,” the statement added.

The Swedish giant employs over 217,000 people and has more than 50 outlets. Its annual turnover is around 40 billion euros ($46 billion).

The group did not specify how it would determine the price paid for second-hand furniture and customers will receive a voucher, not cash, for their products.  

As part of efforts to reduce waste, Ikea has already begun repairing and re-packaging products in every store that have been damaged in transit, as well as allowing customers to return products – including furniture – for resale or donation to charities.