Ikea accused of exploiting lorry drivers
Report claims haulage companies are in breach of EU rules
The Swedish furniture retailer giant Ikea, which has built a reputation for being wholesome and egalitarian, has come under fire over lorry drivers' pay.
A BBC report today claims that drivers for haulage companies based in Eastern Europe drive through richer western European countries while being paid far less than the local cost of living.
As a result they are forced to live extremely frugally and sleep in their lorries "for months at a time".
One example used was that of the Romanian driver Emilian, who "moves goods for Ikea around western Europe, and had been in Denmark most recently".
Emilian said his monthly standard pay averages €477 (£420), while Danish drivers are paid an average of €2,200 (£1,900) a month. He says he "spends up to four months at a time sleeping, eating and washing in his truck".
Under EU rules a driver posted temporarily away from home should be "guaranteed" the host nation's "minimum rate of pay". But the BBC says his employer, a Slovakian subsidiary of the Norwegian trucking company Bring, is exploiting a "loophole" in these rules.
In this instance, Emilian is being paid the minimum wages of Slovakia, "even though he never works there".
Many of Ikea's biggest contractors, and those for a range of other "household names", are engaged in similar practices, the BBC says.
Last month in the Netherlands, a court ruled that Brinkman, a company that delivers Ikea flowers to the UK and Scandinavia, was breaking the law and that drivers' pay was "not consistent" with Dutch wages law.
"Increasing numbers of foreign haulage companies are now moving goods in Britain… [and] British haulage companies are nervous that they will be undercut by companies that could be breaking the law," the BBC adds.
Ikea says it takes what drivers have told the BBC "very seriously'' and is "saddened by the testimonies".
Writing on Forbes.com, Tim Worstall says the part that is "glossed over" in the story is that Emilian also receives an expenses allowance of €45 (£40) a day, or "£1,200 a month".
Worstall says this is enough to put his pay well above the minimum wages in host countries. He argues that drivers live in trucks out of choice to save money, especially as daily allowances are typically free of tax.