IKEA to introduce minimum standards for transport sub-contractors


IKEA has started a sub-contracting supply chain management programme designed to introduce minimum standards for transport sub-suppliers engaged in outsourced transportation for the group.

The furniture and home furnishings giant told Lloyd's Loading List that focus areas included minimum wages, working hours and rest times.

The announcement came a week after the International Transport Workers’ Federation revealed it had commenced talks with IKEA “aimed at eradicating exploitation” from its European supply chain.

IKEA said last week's talks with ITF members had been called “to continue the dialogue” on how to work together to improve working conditions for drivers in the transport industry as a whole.

“A constructive dialogue characterized the nature of the meeting and all participants agreed that they share the importance of fair and good working conditions for drivers,” IKEA told Lloyd’s Loading List. “IKEA Transport together with ITF identified some key focus areas and the dialogue between IKEA Transport and ITF will continue.”

Earlier this year, one of IKEA's road freight transport service contractors, Brinkman Trans Holland, was condemned by a Dutch court for using foreign truck drivers from affiliated companies to cut costs, paying them a basic wage said to be around eight times lower than the legally binding rate in the Netherlands.

The court ordered an immediate halt to the practice, as well as an end to drivers using truck cabs as living accommodation during weekly rest breaks. The court also awarded back pay to three Dutch drivers.

IKEA said it continued to use Brinkman as a contractor and had employed the company for the last five years. However, the furniture giant added that it had recently undertaken a thorough investigation of the company, in particular to examine its compliance with applicable laws and its own supplier code of conduct – IWAY - which encompasses wages and working conditions.

“Our audits show that the company (Brinkman) fully complies with these requirements,” said IKEA.

IKEA also said it had been using IWAY since 2005 and last year carried out 174 audits and 97 interviews with drivers.

“Should we detect any breaches related to laws, regulations or agreements, we will act upon them immediately,” added the company.

ITF road transport section vice-chair and ETF (European Transport Workers’ Federation) president Frank Moreels, described the meeting with the Sweden-based retailer as “an important first step”, adding that he welcomed IKEA taking the issues raised by European workers’ unions seriously.
“The fact is that some multinationals are facilitating social dumping and unfair competition in their supply chains by not tackling these problems, or improving contract pricing practices,” he added.

“Multinationals need to engage better contractors on safe rates or force their current contractors to meet higher standards and conditions. IKEA is to be congratulated on being the first multinational of its kind to take steps towards that aim, and to do it in collaboration with trade unions.”
However, he said unions would not be fully satisfied until “we have a solution where truck drivers get working contracts in the countries where they actually work, giving them the rights and protections they need”.