Ikea risks boycott in Poland after wading into gay rights debate
Poland ordered prosecutors to probe Ikea of Sweden after its local unit fired a man over his actions during a gay-pride corporate event, while ruling-party officials mulled a boycott of the world’s largest furniture retailer.
The incident comes after Poland’s most powerful politician, governing-party boss Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said in the run-up to last month’s European elections that that the advancement of gay rights is a “grave danger” for Poland’s families and the future of the European Union. If confirmed by the investigation, the episode shows how foreign companies in Poland “discriminate” against those who don’t share their values, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro told public television TVP Info.
“This is unacceptable,” Ziobro said Friday. “It’s absolutely scandalous.”
The former Ikea employee, identified by TVP Info as Tomasz K., told the network that he was fired after he refused to withdraw a critical comment he posted on the company intranet during an event showing solidarity with the LGBT community. He said his post included quotes from the Bible. “I was shaken up, I’ve been hired to sell furniture but I’m a Catholic and these aren’t my values,” he said.
Ikea’s corporate culture is based on the “freedom of ideas, tolerance and respect for each employee but the company has to react when it sees risk of breach of dignity of other employees,” Katarzyna Broniarek, head of corporate communications at Ikea Retail, said in a statement.
Patryk Jaki, a ruling-party lawmaker and Ziobro’s former deputy, offered Tomasz K. legal help and called for a boycott of Ikea if investigations found the retailer was discriminating against Catholics.
Ikea opened its first Polish store in 1991. It has more than a dozen factories in the country and nearly the same amount of retail outlets. Polish plants make about 4,000 products sold in Ikea stores globally.