Polish IKEA workers demand fair wages

Poland is the latest country visited by BWI and its “IKEA Workers’ Caravan of Stories,” a campaign to enable IKEA workers in different countries to share with one another their working lives and experiences. In an industrial factory in Zbaszynek, 3,400 workers produce furniture for IKEA. The said workers are organised by two trade unions, Budowlani and Solidarnosc, with the latter also doing organising work among IKEA retail workers. 

According to the unions, the workers lament the poor wages that they receive from the company. “Twenty years ago, almost all workers want to work for IKEA because it pays 20 percent higher than the average in the region. However, now, the salaries it provides its workers are among the lowest.  Even its wage increase is not enough. This year, management proposed to increase wages for retail workers by merely 1 percent in contrast to the 4 percent inflation rate and seven percent minimum wage increase in the region,” one of the workers narrated. 

The Ikea industry workers, meanwhile, identified their high-levels of work-related stress, as one of their main issues. They said that the company implements three eight-hour shifts: morning shifts (6 AM to 2 PM), evening shifts (2 to 10 PM) and night shifts (10 PM to 6 AM). A thirty-minute break is included in the working time. 

“We have a heavy workload. While we produced more compared to 8 months ago, our salaries remained the same. The number of employed workers is also practically the same despite the heavier work demand,” the workers complained. 

The lack of accessible transportation is also a concern. Workers said that the company does not provide transportation to bring them to work and help them return home. They explained that the factory is located outside the city where many of them live, and public transportation is a challenge for many workers.  

While the workers admitted that there were improvements in their working conditions, they said that they were the result of their trade union actions and interventions. “There were improvements in the last four years because our unions never gave up on our demands. We enjoy a paid 30-minute break, a one-month reference period, bonuses and pensions because our unions fought for us. We even saved more than 300 jobs during the start of the pandemic because of our unions,” they said. 

Both the IKEA industry and retail workers said that they joined their respective unions because they wanted to improve their working conditions and help fellow workers solve problems that they face in their working lives. 

“As union members, we feel stronger and more confident to put our demands on the table. Now we are ready to start negotiations and campaign for our annual wage increase. We hope our efforts will lead to fairer salaries,” the workers concluded. #