IKEA trade unionists raise concerns on Belarus, timber's rising cost

The BWI Global IKEA Unions’ Network held its fifth meeting last 30 June bringing together trade union leaders from IKEA factories, warehouses and suppliers based in Poland, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the United States.

The Network discussed IKEA’s business activities in democracy-challenged Belarus. The trade unionists took exception to IKEA’s continued activities in the country ruled by dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko. They said that despite the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) strong condemnation of the country’s blatant violation of international labour standards, IKEA continues to do business with the Lukashenko regime. 

The ILO, in its recently-concluded International Labour Conference, decried Belarus’ “numerous allegations of extreme violence to repress peaceful protests and strikes, and the detention, imprisonment and torture of workers while in custody following the presidential election in August 2020.” However, trade unionists said that IKEA continues to purchase 1 million metric tons of raw wood products from Belarus. they also said that IKEA continues to buy bespoke furniture, textiles and other products produced in the country, increasing its procurement from EUR 80 million in 2018 to EUR 300 million this year. 

The Network agreed to call on IKEA to halt all its business engagements in Belarus, asserting that the company condones Lukashenko’s dictatorship by continuing its business operations in the country. It also called on IKEA to conduct independent probes of its suppliers in the country to determine their compliance with human and labour rights. 

Meanwhile, the rising costs of raw materials, particularly timber, in the last six months was also discussed by the Network. The trade unionists asserted that IKEA workers should not bear the brunt of the rising cost of materials, and have committed to continue with their campaigns and negotiations for fair wages and decent working conditions. 

The BWI Global IKEA Unions’ Network has been actively conducting meetings since the start of the pandemic. The Network provides IKEA workers and trade unionists from different countries a platform to share their perspectives and experiences, and arrive at common action points.