Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Freight and Logistics Giant Still Being Criticised Over Labour Situation Despite Green Credentials

Unions Persist in Campaign to Obtain Answers with Demonstration and Questions at DP DHL AGM
Shipping News Feature

GERMANY – WORLDWIDE – Despite some laudable efforts to demonstrate its green credentials Deutsche Post DHL is still making headlines for all the wrong reasons as a litany of complaints regarding the freight and logistics group’s behaviour with regard to terms of employment outside of its native Germany continue to rain down on it.

As predicted in our story a week or so ago the annual general meeting proved to be a lively affair according to those present. First the positive news, it is exactly five years since DP DHL introduced its GoGreen programme with a view to setting a measureable climate protection target. The longer term objective is to cut emissions of CO2 by 30% against 2007 levels. Carbon offsets rose through the GoGreen scheme by around 30% in 2012 against the previous year and tripled compared to 2009 with 180,000 tonnes of carbon savings last year.

In addition to the scheme DP DHL has now included all its environmental practices under the GoGreen umbrella with about 8,500 vehicles in the company’s global fleet now reliant on alternative drive systems including hybrid and biofuel technology or electrically powered units or having been aerodynamically adjusted to give improved performance. Additionally the company has pushed ahead with other initiatives with trees planted in China, Guatemala and the United States, reduced car use by volunteer employees in Germany and campaigns in the UK and other countries.

One innovative measure has been the use of groundwater from the adjacent River Rhine to regulate the temperature in the Group's headquarters whilst solar energy and various conservation measures have reduced roughly 42% of overall building needs.

The news on the industrial relations front is however not so optimistic with union representatives again speaking out at the AGM and claiming evidence that DP DHL has acted improperly toward many workers outside of its home country. The ITF and UNI Global Union led the charges against the company, both inside the AGM and at a protest outside with members of the ver.di union and the Turkish community whilst accusations continued that the company has backed fake unions and unlawfully fired workers in Turkey; used lie detectors against staff in Colombia, Panama and South Africa; and relied on agency workers on lower wages and with no job security in the UK, Malaysia, Indonesia and India.

What most incenses the unions, who have also waged war with a web campaign, is the seeming inability or unwillingness of senior management to act on their promises to investigate the alleged problems. ITF global head – supply chain and logistics Ingo Marowsky, spoke at the AGM and told of his frustration subsequently, saying:

“The company’s behaviour in many countries where it operates risks alienating shareholders and clients. Around half the speakers at the AGM raised the issue of workers’ rights. Yet it became shockingly clear that not only is Deutsche Post DHL failing to implement its corporate social responsibilities and corporate governance responsibilities but it doesn’t even seem to know what’s going on in its own operations.

“For example, the chief executive officer, Frank Appel, doesn’t know how many unions or works councils they’ve got. They don’t track industrial problems. Court cases apparently ‘just happen’ in such a large company. They are not up to speed with events in DHL Turkey, don¹t want to share their investigation of events there and claim they don’t need a joint investigation. Such unsatisfactory responses do not inspire confidence. It was interesting to hear Appel admit that under Turkish law DHL does not have either a recognised union or a collective bargaining agreement. The company has denied up till now our claims that it didn’t have a proper union or CBA in Turkey.”

Last week the Handy Shipping Guide office in Thailand asked DP DHL to comment specifically on the allegations made about its labour practices in eight different countries following two years of rumour and speculation and some very detailed accusations hoping for a specific rebuttal or explanation for each. The reply was as follows:

“Deutsche Post DHL is a respectful employer. All of our employees have the right to join or not to join a union of their choice. In many units and countries of Deutsche Post DHL our employees are represented by unions. Internationally, we work together with employee representatives and unions in the respective countries according to national laws and customs. In locations where we do not have unions we continue to maintain and foster very constructive relationships directly between employees and the company’s respective management.

“We are still convinced that the dismissals in Turkey were all related to either violation of contractual obligations or issues of employee misconduct. There is no systematic approach to violate trade union rights within Deutsche Post DHL, neither in Turkey, nor internationally.”

Photo: A scene from the DP DHL AGM