Thursday, January 30, 2014

Giant Global Freight and Logistics Provider Finally Looks to Settle Acrimonious Labour Disputes

After Years of Promises Unions Achieve Some Level of Agreement Over Underhand Practices
Shipping News Feature

GERMANY – WORLDWIDE – Finally, after what can only be described as an acrimonious dispute it appears a long and bitter saga between one of the world’s largest global freight and logistics firms and international workers representatives may be at an end. The row between Deutsche Post DHL and various unions has festered for years with the company frequently promising to resolve matters but being accused of inactivity and only having concerns for the interests of its German staff.

Now the German National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises has issued a joint statement agreed upon by UNI Global Union, the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and Deutsche Post DHL, that addresses some key areas in a dispute over allegations that DHL has, in several countries, ignored the rights of workers to form and join trade unions. This ratification aims to turn a page in UNI and ITF’s relationship with the leading multinational in post and logistics with UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings, saying:

“This agreement is a turning point in our relationship with DHL. Our aim is simple, we urge DHL to respect workers’ rights to organise, to provide decent work conditions and a voice for workers in this growing industry. We have high expectations that DHL, the world’s leader in logistics, will work with us to achieve these goals.”

In November 2012, the ITF and UNI filed a complaint against DHL accusing them of systematically denying workers, from around the world their rights to freely join or organise trade unions of their choice. It is alleged that the company backed fake unions and unlawfully fired workers in Turkey; used lie detectors against staff in Colombia, Panama and South Africa; systematically discriminated against African-American workers and workers with a Latin American background, along with trade union violations in the US; refused to recognise a union in Vietnam; relied on agency workers on lower wages and no job security in the UK, Malaysia, Indonesia and India; and other trade union violations in Bahrain, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Malawi and Norway.

The case was submitted to the German government and handled by the NCP for the OECD Guidelines, who is based in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs. After a preliminary investigation, in June 2013, the NCP accepted the case as concerns five critical countries - Turkey, India, Colombia, Indonesia and Vietnam - and asked the parties to begin a mediation process. The NCP came to the conclusion that other cases were either too vague or based on already solved cases.

The results of the mediation have been significant, most notably in Turkey, where over 1,600 workers at DHL Turkey Supply chain won the right to be represented by their union of choice, Tumtis, after a multi-year campaign was initially met with extreme hostility by the employer.

The process has also led to an assessment of DHL’s industrial relations with unions in India and Colombia, and a path for bargaining with the union in Indonesia. The agreement calls for DHL to meet quarterly with the ITF and UNI and report to the NCP as part of the company’s due diligence process. This provides a foundation for continued dialogue and engagement with DHL and creates an opportunity to resolve disputes, especially those involving the right to organise, in a responsible, direct way. Steve Cotton, ITF acting General Secretary said:

“ITF, UNI and our affiliates are ready to ensure DHL meets its obligations to its workers and respects union rights around the world. We are pleased that this process has been resolved and hopeful that we can continue to work with DHL to ensure that workers have their rights on the job.”