Lorry drivers in Ikea’s and other retailers’ logistics supply chains have been living out of their vehicles for months because they can not afford accommodation in the countries they are working.
An investigation by the BBC found drivers employed by companies in Eastern Europe and contracted by the furniture retailer were being paid less than £3 an hour. One of the lowest paid drivers the BBC spoke to was being paid €150 a month.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said retailers were increasingly using these firms because of their low costs.
Ikea has said it sympathises with the drivers the BBC spoke to and would “act upon any concrete evidence of non-compliance”.
Drivers from countries including Ukraine, Moldova and Poland, were being paid wages and expenses equivalent to their home countries while working exclusively in more expensive Western European countries. Many of the drivers the BBC spoke were spending three to four months at a time working in Western Europe, eating, sleeping and washing in their vehicles, before returning home.
The BBC said this way of treating drivers was widespread and not just in Ikea’s supply chain, and that haulage companies were finding loopholes in EU laws that stipulate drivers working abroad temporarily must be paid the host country’s wages.
EU law also states drivers should take 45 hours of rest a week away from their cabs, which is not possible for these drivers.
In the UK, RHA said it was seeing more foreign vehicles on the roads that were less compliant with drivers’ hours and road worthiness regulations. “[The government] have to get a grip on this because big, well-known UK retailers and other companies are making increasing use of these firms because they don't cost very much. But they’re costing the UK,” Jack Semple, director of policy at RHA told the BBC.
Ikea lauched a supplier code of conduct, called Iway, in 2000 to set out clear requirements on environmental and human rights. As well as stating the supplier must “maintain a transparent and reliable system for records on working hours and wages” and said all workers must be paid at least he legal minimum wage.
The code also has specific regulations for transport contractors, restricting the number of hours their employees can work.
Ikea told SM it was important every driver transporting its products had good and fair working conditions. “Through our supplier code of conduct, Iway, we put clear and strict demands on our transport service providers when it comes to wages, working conditions and following applicable legislation.” It added that it makes regular audits and acts to correct non-compliance.
Ikea said it recognised there were challenges in the transport industry and was developing Iway to “reduce the risk of social dumping”. “We also call for joint efforts, on different political levels as well as from key industry stakeholders,” it said.
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