The New York Times reports:
Ikea has long been famous for its inexpensive, some-assembly-required furniture. On Friday the company admitted that political prisoners in the former East Germany provided some of the labor that helped it keep its prices so low.
Former East German prisoners attended a news conference on Friday at which Ikea confirmed forced labor was used to make products in the 1980s.
A report by auditors at Ernst & Young concluded that Ikea, a Swedish company, knowingly benefited from forced labor in the former East Germany to manufacture some of its products in the 1980s. Ikea had commissioned the report in May as a result of accusations that both political and criminal prisoners were involved in making components of Ikea furniture and that some Ikea employees knew about it.
“Even though Ikea Group took steps to secure that prisoners were not used in production, it is now clear that these measures were not effective enough,” the company said in a statement on Friday.
Well, yes. And it seems Western imports of items produced by forced prison labor are not exactly a thing of the distant past.
Strangely enough there has been no mention of this news at the selectively pro-labor Socialist Unity website. However in one of their nostalgia-soaked posts about the late German Democratic Republic, they informed us:
Pay levels in general were not high compared with Western standards. But everyone knew that the profits they created would go into the “social pot” and used to make life better for everyone, not just for a few owners or shareholders who would pocket the surplus.
Most people recognised that the surplus they created helped increase what was called the “social wage” – subsidised food, clothing and rent, cheap public transport and inexpensive tickets for cultural, sporting and leisure activities.
I’m sure the political prisoners forced to turn out our furniture for Ikea appreciated that. Or they might have had they received any pay at all. Or if they had been able to take advantage of that cheap public transport and leisure activities instead of being locked up for expressing their opposition to the government.