Human Rights in Cuba

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Posted on Wednesday, 06.27.12

IKEA asks for help in Cuban labor probe

The Swedish furniture giant has set up a hotline and asked anyone with

information on a 1987 contract to make furniture in Cuban prisons for

IKEA to call

By Juan O. Tamayo

Furniture giant IKEA has asked for help from anyone with information

regarding a 1987 agreement between government enterprises in Cuba and

the former East to manufacture furniture in Cuban prison

workshops for the Swedish firm.

A telephone hotline has been established in Germany for people "who want

to contribute to clarifying the production conditions among our

suppliers" in the former communist-ruled German Democratic Republic,

said an IKEA announcement Monday.

IKEA hired the firm of Ernst & Young to investigate complaints that one

of its Berlin subsidiaries agreed in 1987 to buy furniture manufactured

in prisons in Cuba and the GDR. It is not clear whether the Cuba part of

the agreement was carried out.

Those with information can contact the hotline Monday through Friday

from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 0800 0007303 (free of charge from Germany) or

011+49 (6196) 996 14023 (from abroad, subject to charges), or by fax at

011+49 (6196) 996 19854.

IKEA executives met early this month with Cuban-American members of the

U.S. Congress and assured them that the firm has no current business

with Cuba and will report back to them on the results of its investigation.

The Monday statement said IKEA's code of conduct for suppliers around

the world "includes a zero tolerance of any form of forced or bonded

labor," and that the company carries out more than 1,000 audits per year

to ensure compliance.

The company "takes the allegations that political prisoners were used to

manufacture IKEA products … in the former GDR (and) in Cuba very

seriously," it added. "Should this have occurred, it is totally

unacceptable and deeply regrettable."

Complaints against IKEA's production in Cuba have not specifically

mentioned political prisoners. Several Cuban former political prisoners

have said they were not required to work.

The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine reported in April that an

IKEA subsidiary in Berlin agreed in 1987 to a furniture manufacturing

deal with two trading companies owned by the GDR government, KuA and

Delta GmbH. The firms in turn contracted some of the work to EMIAT, a

firm run by the Cuban Interior Ministry that sells products made in the

island's prisons.

Documents founds in the archives of the Stasi, the GDR's much feared

state security ministry, showed there were quality problems with the

first batch of Cuban furniture delivered, apparently sofas and tables,

and it was not clear whether the deal continued.

The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, communism followed and the GDR disappeared

in 1990, reunified with the Federal Republic of Germany, which was

sometimes called West Germany.

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