IKEA says investigation underway into its use of prison labor in Cuba

After meeting yesterday with Cuban American lawmakers in Washington D.C., Swedish furniture manufacture IKEA stated that it is investigating the evidence recently uncovered that the company struck a deal with the Cuban dictatorship in the 1980s to have its goods manufactured in Cuba by forced prison labor.

Juan Tamayo in the Miami Herald:

IKEA says it’s still investigating claims it used Cuban prison labor

IKEA continues to investigate claims that it used Cuban prisoners to build furniture.

Furniture giant IKEA told Cuban-Americans in the U.S. Congress on Wednesday that it does not have any current business with Cuba and is still investigating reports it contracted for prison labor on the island in 1987.

“We will share the results of the investigation as soon as it is finalized. We also confirmed for the members of Congress that IKEA currently does not do business with Cuba,” the Swedish company said in a statement.

A German newspaper reported last month that IKEA used a trading company in the communist-ruled East Germany to contract for Cuban prisoners to build 45,000 tables and 4,000 sofa groupings. It’s unclear whether the contract was fulfilled.

“We had a good conversation with the lawmakers,” IKEA US President Mike Ward was quoted as saying. “We reiterated that we take this issue very seriously and we understand and appreciate how important this is to the members of congress and their constituents.”

Ward and two other company executives met Wednesday in Washington with Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, David Rivera and Mario Diaz-Balart, all South Florida Republicans, as well as Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Robert Menendez, D-NJ.

IKEA’s statement noted that the company conducts more than 1,000 audits per year to confirm compliance by its suppliers with its “explicit” policy against the use of forced labor. It added that the Cuba investigation, which it first announced last month, was being done in conjunction with the accounting firm Ernst & Young.

Ros-Lehtinen, in a statement issued after the meeting said she appreciated the IKEA executives’ “stated commitment to transparency and a full investigation” but added that she “will continue to press IKEA on the status of its investigation.”

The Cuban-Americans in Congress also will continue to encourage the International Labor Organization (ILO), a branch of the United Nations, to open a formal investigation into this matter as well, she added.

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One thought on “IKEA says investigation underway into its use of prison labor in Cuba

  1. IKEA will probably wind up blaming East Germany and claiming it didn’t know Cuban prison labor was involved. Of course, even if that were true, what the hell was it doing dealing with East Germany? Answer: getting cheap labor, one way or another.

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