It’s our end of the week round up of PR Heroes and Villains yet again and everybody’s favourite Scandinavian flat-pack furniture chain gets the vote for villain of the piece this week.

A BBC investigation highlighted that a number of the haulage companies used by IKEA to transport their goods are employing drivers from the poorer Eastern European countries to come and operate within Western Europe.

By exploiting tax loopholes these haulage companies are able to pay their drivers a wage relevant to the economically poorer country in which they reside rather that the country in which they are driving and ‘living’ for up to months at a time, basically allowing them to attract cheap labour. This is in spite of EU rules stating that drivers posted temporarily away from home should be ”guaranteed” the host nation’s ”minimum rates of pay” and conditions.

One case highlighted in the investigation was of a Romanian driver, transporting goods within Denmark earning an average monthly wage of 477 euros, where as a Danish driver performing the same job would take home an average monthly salary of 2,200 euros. On top of this is the appalling conditions in which they must exist, eating and sleeping in their cab for months at a time with a severe lack of facilities and sanitation.

Whilst these drivers are not directly employed by IKEA, they are a vital part of their supply chain with a great deal of power and influence. IKEA claimed to be “saddened by the testimonies” going on to say it puts ”strict demands” on its suppliers concerning wages, working conditions and following applicable legislation, and audits them regularly to check compliance.

This is hard to believe given the BBC’s findings. While IKEA were not the only company using these hauliers, I’m sure it is publicity IKEA would rather not have. But is also an opportunity to turn it around with their next actions. I’ll be interested to see if they take it.

And now on a lighter note, but keeping to the European theme. This week’s PR hero comes in the form of the heartwarming story of Melanie Segard a young Frenchwoman with Down’s syndrome who managed to fulfil her dream of presenting the weather on television after a successful campaign by the French charity Unapei in an effort to promote awareness and inclusion of people with disabilities. The campaign “Melanie peut le faire” (Melanie can do it) attracted over 200,000 supporters through Facebook.

21 year old, Melanie hosted a segment of the weather forecast on France 2 – a national public channel. “I’m different, but I’d like to show everyone that I can do a lot of things,” she said.

This is PR gold and a win win for all those involved, whilst raising awareness for a very worthy cause. Lovely.