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NAZI

Ikea also used Cuban prison labour: report

As Swedish furniture retailer Ikea probes revelations about the use of East German prisoners labour, new allegations emerged Thursday indicating the home furnishings giant also used Cuban prisoners to build furniture in the 1980s.

Ikea also used Cuban prison labour: report

A deal for Ikea furniture to be made in Cuban prisons was struck in September 1987, after a delegation of East Germans went to Havana for talks with the Cuban Interior Ministry, according to the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).

East German documents reviewed by the paper allegedly show that the delegation from East Germany also spoke with Enrique Sanchez, who headed the Cuban company Emiat – responsible for furnishing the holiday and guest homes of the Cuban political elite.

The East German files say production sites were “incorporated in the prison facilities of the Interior Ministry” in Cuba.

A contract was later signed with East Berlin-based “Ikea Trading Berlin”, the paper said, for up to 4,000 “Falkenberg” three-piece living room ensembles, and then 10,000 tables for children and 35,000 dining tables, all to be made in Cuba.

Problems arose in early 1988, when the first delivery of “Falkenberg” sofas was halted because of poor quality, prompting the East Germans to take another trip to Cuba to ensure production was up to Ikea quality standards.

Only then, the documents show, could, “a direct shipment from Havana to Sweden be undertaken.”

The claims will increase pressure on the Swedish retail firm, which has already said this week it will look into allegations that East German prisoners were forced to make its products in the 1970s and 1980s. A spokesman told the FAZ it knew nothing about the Cuban production claims.

But this was also the initial response to the East German prison labour claims – and early this week the company said it planned to examine Stasi secret service files from the time to check for evidence.

“We take this matter extremely seriously,” said Ikea spokeswoman Jeanette Skjelmose on Monday.

“We have requested documents from the old Stasi archive and are speaking with people who were with us at that time.”

FAZ said it was possible that political prisoners were made to build Ikea furniture in East Germany without the company knowing about it.

It said many prisoners had to work for companies, without the prisoners knowing where the stuff they made was destined for, nor the firms themselves knowing who had been involved.

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IKEA

Ikea will buy back your used furniture at up to half the price

In the run-up to what would in normal times be the festive season sales rush, Ikea has vowed to buy back used furniture from customers to resell – and pay up to 50 percent of the original price.

Ikea will buy back your used furniture at up to half the price
Got any pieces of Ikea furniture at home? You may be able to get rid of it and get money back. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Ikea, the world's largest furniture chain, said Tuesday it would begin buying back used furniture from customers to resell – and pay up to 50 percent of the original price.

The “Buy Back Friday” scheme, timed to coincide with the “Black Friday” pre-Christmas retail frenzy, will run from November 24th and until December 3rd in 27 countries.

“Rather than buy things you don't need this Black Friday, we want to help customers give their furniture a second life instead of making an impulse buy,” said Stefan Vanoverbeke, deputy retail operations manager at Ingka Group, Ikea's parent company.

To address concerns its affordable, flat-pack products encourage overconsumption and waste, the Swedish company had previously said it would start renting and recycling furniture as part of an eco-drive.

Under its buyback scheme, the group said that “anything that can't be resold will be recycled or donated to community projects to help those most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

“Some countries like Australia and Canada for example are currently testing different buyback services, but BuyBack Friday will be the first time that 27 countries do this together,” the statement added.

The Swedish giant employs over 217,000 people and has more than 50 outlets. Its annual turnover is around 40 billion euros ($46 billion).

The group did not specify how it would determine the price paid for second-hand furniture and customers will receive a voucher, not cash, for their products.  

As part of efforts to reduce waste, Ikea has already begun repairing and re-packaging products in every store that have been damaged in transit, as well as allowing customers to return products – including furniture – for resale or donation to charities.

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