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France

Fresh spying allegations pile pressure on IKEA

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2012-03-01

IKEA France was caught up in further damaging allegations Thursday, with the Swedish furniture giant being accused of hiring a private security company to provide illegally acquired information on its workers, union members and clients.

In the latest twist in a damaging ‘spying’ scandal, Swedish furniture giant IKEA was on Thursday accused of “harassing” its employees after media reports emerged Wednesday that the company had illegally obtained police files on French workers, clients and union leaders.

The latest allegations centre on a former employee who told Europe 1 radio that she had been asked to profile her colleagues and to keep the information on a USB key and to avoid leaving it on company computers “for security reasons”.
 
Spying on colleagues
 
The unnamed woman said that she had refused to take part in the management’s “flicage” – a highly derogatory term meaning “spying on colleagues” and linked to the French slang word for policeman, “flic”. She said she was sacked for her unwillingness to cooperate and accused Ikea of “harassment”.
 
“I didn’t fit the profile of being a good IKEA manager,” she said. “Senior management called me in, they had a file about 10 centimetres thick, detailing small failings. There wasn’t any serious fault, but they told me that they had collated enough information on me to get me fired.”
 
The allegation of colleague profiling and “flicage” – which are extremely unpopular activities in French working culture – followed press reports that IKEA management had illegally obtained police and court files on its workers.
 
On Wednesday French satirical weekly the Canard Enchainé [details in paper edition only] alleged that IKEA’s “Risk Management” division in France has signed a deal with a private security company in 2003 to provide police files – which is strictly illegal in France. Information was allegedly sent to Ikea with details of prospective employees, as well as clients and union leaders.
 
Employee's bank accounts examined
 
The Canard Enchainé published emails sent between 2007 and 2009 which included elements of court and police histories of workers and suppliers. IKEA had also examined an employee’s bank account in 2003 as well as the content of a judicial inquiry into unions in 2005, according to online news site Mediapart [subscription] on Thursday.
 
A complaint was lodged at a court in Versailles, the site of IKEA’s French headquarters, on Wednesday night. IKEA on Thursday said it had suspended “the person concerned” and that it had launched an internal inquiry.
 
“Respect for people’s private lives is one of the most important values of this group and we vigorously disapprove of any working practices that undermine this,” IKEA France said in a statement.

 

Date created : 2012-03-01

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