Amidst the gloom of the Covid-19 pandemic, a bright spot shines through with the recent win of KFSU-Mart Workers Union which succeeded in organising in IKEA Korea and achieving the first basic agreement on April 17.
IKEA first entered Korea in 2014 and now have 4 main stores in the areas of Giheung, DongBusan, Goyang, and Gwangmyeong.
Although a world renown brand, workers in IKEA stores faced challenges since the beginning. Brother Chung Yoon-Taek, President of IKEA Korea Union recounted that IKEA store workers earn one of the lowest wages in the Korean retail sector. This was complicated by the non-standard work arrangements which sees different workers allocated different working hours every week. Some work for 16 hours or 20 hours, whereas some would work for 25 hours and up to 40 hours a week.
The arbitrary working hours system and low wages made it difficult for workers to manage and sustain their life which ultimately motivated the workers to unionise. The KFSU-Mart Workers Union launched its organising campaign on February 20 at IKEA’s first Korea store in the Gwangmyeong area.
The basic agreement achieved has provisions that provides a space for a union office to operate, and 15 union officials are given paid time off up to 120 hours to participate in union activities including negotiations and undertake union education to promote a healthy industrial relation in the company. Brother Kim Ki-Wan, President of the KFSU-Mart Industry Union reiterated in the meeting with IKEA Korea’s management that both management and union must respect the international labour standards and local laws to improve the working conditions. The KFSU have high hopes for IKEA Korea to transform into a leading company where the workers will feel proud working there.
To date, the IKEA Korea Union counts more than 400 members.
UNI Commerce congratulated the KFSU-Mart Workers Union and IKEA Korea Union for this exciting success. Head of UNI Commerce, Mathias Bolton, says, “This is a wonderful and motivating win for the IKEA workers and the union especially during this trying period. I look forward to welcoming the IKEA Korea Union into our IKEA alliance network!”
UNI Apro Regional Secretary, Rajendra Acharya, also offers his congratulations to the unions involved and hopes to work more closely with them in the coming future.