Wednesday, November 21, 2012

DP DHL Confident of Profit as Employment Tactics of the Freight and Logistics Giant Slated

CEO Speaks but Unions Say with Forked Tongue
Shipping News Feature

GERMANY – SWITZERLAND – WORLDWIDE – Today two press releases regarding Deutsche Post DHL were published almost simultaneously yet the tone of the two could hardly be more different. The first is an interview with CEO Frank Appel, available in both text and video format, in which the DP DHL boss expresses his views on the current trends in freight and logistics, speaking at length about the most lucrative markets open to the group. The second statement simply outlines the case brought before the German government today accusing the multinational of breaking a host of employment regulations and actively working against pro union activity in numerous poorer countries.

Mr Appel makes much of the investment the group has made saying it has invested heavily in an air hub in Cincinnati. He seems unaware or indifferent to the reaction locally when this was announced; one has only to look at the foot of our own story from February last year to note the comments about ‘hostile environments’ and ‘destroying lives’ penned by ex DHL employees. This apparent unwillingness to address labour problems is what has fuelled the latest situation as we reported on the 13th November and now matters it seems have come to a head.

The self congratulatory musings of Mr Appel will not endear him to his critics; he claims that ‘sophisticated instruments’ are a key component in adjusting to customer needs in times of austerity and declares his company’s intention to continue to invest using long range assessments of growth areas both geographically and in terms of modal type whilst admitting some areas of profitability were affected by a new wage agreement, presumably whilst principally considering DP DHL’s traditional ‘home’ markets.

The switch from net liquidity to net debt, a major consideration for investors, Mr Appel puts down to ‘repayment of state aid’, presumably all German, in the amount of €298 million. He also mentions a VAT payment of €482 million impacting the cash position, despite the fact that this is no more than government money temporarily retained by the company, not profit.

Nowhere in this lengthy speech is any reference made to the constant criticisms being raised by union organisations, despite Mr Appel’s past promises that the situation would be looked into. This attitude is seemingly what has led the UNI Global Union (UNI) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) today to bring the matter before the German government alleging that DP DHL has committed a series of labour violations outside of Germany which breach the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises the very terms the group has made much of in the past as being their default position with regard to employment matters and which have been agreed by 42 countries and enforced by national governments. UNI Global Union Deputy General Secretary, Christy Hoffman, said:

“DP-DHL is the largest logistics company in the world. DP-DHL is breaching the global standards for multinational corporations to conduct responsible business. As Germany is one of its major shareholders, we, along with our partner, the ITF, are asking the German government to step up to its responsibility to take action. We are bringing this case to ensure that DP-DHL adheres to the OECD guidelines and its global workforce is treated with respect and dignity.”

The matters to which Ms Hoffman refers are the numerous claims that DP DHL has adopted a deliberate strategy to limit unionisation in many countries including Turkey, Indonesia, Malawi, Vietnam, Colombia, Guatemala, Hong Kong and the USA, much in contrast to its policies in Germany. The unions point out that a commitment to human rights is central to the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises as are clear standards of conduct for industrial relations, including a respect for the right of workers to establish or join trade unions and the right to collective bargaining.

The situation has come to a head with the company’s apparent inaction, despite promises to investigate, in the case involving the dismissal of workers in Turkey, allegedly for trying to unionise the local workforce whilst claiming the actual reason was one of “poor performance” and other matters of company policy. The Turkish Labour Court has heard eight of the cases of dismissal so far and apparently in all eight cases the company’s reasons for the dismissals were ruled invalid.

UNI and ITF examined corporate documents and investigative reports and say they have conducted extensive interviews to uncover the truth about the company’s working conditions and management practices citing various reports as evidence. The two union organisations insist they want a negotiated settlement with DP-DHL that will address these ‘serious violations’ of the OECD Guidelines taking place throughout its operations. Stating that DP-DHL must ‘markedly improve its due diligence monitoring and response and ensure its global workforce has the right to organise and the right to decent work free from intimidation.’ Ingo Marowsky, Organising Globally Coordinator, ITF, commented:

“DP-DHL Chief Executive Frank Appel went on record recently as saying that the circumstances around the firing of more than 20 workers in Turkey are being investigated. We have seen no evidence of this investigation on the ground. This is the latest in a catalogue of DP-DHL’s failures to control its global operations. We are still open to meaningful discussions with the company but we expect them to take these allegations seriously and act promptly.”

Strength of feeling is now such about the situation that a protest website has been set up outlining and keeping track of the different cases of alleged abuse.