DANVILLE, VA — Union workers at the Swedwood factory in Danville, VA, have approved a three-year contract with the IKEA furniture manufacturing plant. It is the group’s first collective bargaining agreement and is expected to go into effect upon signing.
In July, 76 percent of Swedwood’s more than 300 workers workers had voted to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), an affiliate of Building and Wood Worker’s International.
According to IAMAW, the new agreement limits the number of temporary workers that can be hired and requires safety training for all employees. The contract also gives workers a threefold increase in vacation days, in addition to existing holidays, while modifying the point system previously used at the company. In addition, it establishes three joint Labour Management Cooperation Committees at Swedwood: a Joint Health and Safety Committee, Maintenance Committee and Training Committee.
“As we have stated from the beginning of this process, we respect our co-workers choice and we are committed to working with them and their representatives in a continued, cooperative and mutually respectful manger,” Ken Brown, manager of the Swedwood Danville plant, said in a statement. “The ratified contract is the result of hard work and respectful, good faith negotiations between both parties.”
The company made news earlier this year with worker claims — disputed by both Swedwood and IKEA — of racial discrimination, poor working conditions and of blocking unionization attempts. In May IKEA issued the following in a statement: “Accusations about any kind of discrimination are taken very seriously by IKEA, but no such practices were found in the audit. No incidents of misbehavior or misconduct by management with respect to punishment and appeal were detected in the audit. During the audit, there was no evidence that Swedwood has prevented employees from exercising their right to become organised and thereby enter into collective bargaining.”
Swedwood broke ground on its first U.S. operation in 2007. The 930,000-square-foot plant marked phase 1 of a $281 million, four-phase plan on the 209-acre site. Among the products manufactured at the facility are IKEA's BESTA, LACK and EXPEDIT storage systems.
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