Posted on Thursday, 06.07.12
IKEA says it's still investigating claims it used Cuban prison labor
IKEA continues to investigate claims that it used Cuban prisoners to
By Juan O. Tamayo
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
"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
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
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.
"The allegations that IKEA worked with the Castro regime in the 1980s to
use forced labor in Cuba are extremely serious," added Ros-Lehtinen, who
chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The company executives
"assured us that current mechanisms are in place to prevent such an
atrocity from being repeated."
Diaz-Balart added that the IKEA representatives also promised to
investigate whether "Cuban political prisoners" had any hand in the
manufacture of IKEA products." Cuban officials have said that prison
labor is voluntary.