IKEA denies alleged use of Cuban prison labour

Reports earlier this year indicated that IKEA officials in West Germany contracted East German state companies that used prison labour to manufacture some of its products in the 1980s, Caribbean 360 reports.

Global furniture giant IKEA has denied reports about the possible use of Cuban prison labour to manufacture goods for its stores.

The Swedish company also said it did not have a long-term business relation with suppliers on the Spanish-speaking Caribbean island.

IKEA issued an apology after an audit by the accounting firm Ernst & Young firm confirmed reports that some suppliers used forced prison labour, including many political dissidents, in communist-ruled East Germany in the 1980s.

“We deeply regret that this could happen,” in East Germany, manager Jeanette Skjelmose said in a statement issued here. “The use of political prisoners for manufacturing was at no point accepted.”

But the Ernst & Young report noted that IKEA “never had any long-term business relations with suppliers in Cuba, and there is no evidence that [the company] was aware of the possible use of political prisoners in Cuba” to manufacture its products.

The auditors, however, found that 71 sofa suites — a sofa and two matching chairs — were produced in Cuba as samples for the Swedish company and at least one set was sent to the former East Germany for quality inspection by company officials.

“The furniture did not meet quality requirements,” the report says. “There is no evidence that the IKEA Group received other products produced in Cuba.”

Reports earlier this year indicated that IKEA officials in West Germany contracted East German state companies that used prison labor to manufacture some of its products in the 1980s.

The East Germans in turn explored hiring Cuban government enterprises that use prison labour to manufacture some products for the Swedish firm, the reports says.

The Cuban enterprises have been identified as EMIAT and PROVARI, both run by the Interior Ministry, in charge of the island’s prisons. PROVARI runs prison manufacturing plants, and EMIAT commercializes the products.

A Cuban government report on PROVARI’s work in 2011 said it was established 20 years before “principally with the objective of offering work to prisoners and integrating them into work useful for society.”

Rainer Wagner, head of a group of victims of East Germany’s communist government, told reporters here that he hoped the furniture company would consider compensating former prisoners for their forced labour.

IKEA said only that it would make a “financial contribution” to Wagner’s group for its “scientific research project on forced labor” in East Germany, which officially disbanded after the collapsed of the Berlin wall in 1989.

Ernst & Young said its investigators examined about 20,000 pages of IKEA documents and 80,000 items in official German archives.

They also said they interviewed about 90 active and retired IKEA employees and witnesses from East Germany.

The furniture firm hired the auditors in May to carry out an independent audit of its East German and Cuba connections.

IKEA US President Michael Ward had met with Cuban Americans in the US Congress in June to assure them the inquiry was a priority.

For the original report go to http://www.caribbean360.com/index.php/news/635866.html#ixzz2CiQgj0nQ

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