By Michael Foster, Big4.com Blogger
Ikea, the Swedish furniture manufacturer with stores worldwide, has been accused of profiting from forced labor through one of its East German suppliers in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Big4 firm Ernst & Young has been retained to audit the company’s operations from the era and determine if forced labor was in fact a part of Ikea’s supply chain.
Former East German prisoner and chairman of UOKG, a victims’ rights group for former East German prisoners, said that several European companies profited from prison labor before Germany was unified in 1990, and Wagner has praised Ikea for working so swiftly to look into the matter and determine to what extent, if any, forced labor was a part of its suppliers’ operations.
“We hope this will be a first step toward a broader investigation into the use of forced labor in East Germany,” Wagner told the Associated Press, adding that his group has asked the German government to offer financial compensation to victims of forced labor in the pre-unification days. Wagner said that he worked in a factory from 1967 to 1969 in Dessau, East Germany, where he was forced to manufacture goods from sheet metal. Wagner said that the machinery was dangerous and 10 per cent of workers lost fingers from the dangerous working conditions.
“If someone refused they were locked in solitary confinement and given only bread and water for up to 42 days,” he told reporters.
Ernst & Young will release its findings on Friday.