Friday, June 15, 2018

Major Freight and Logistics Player Dogged by Sexual Harassment and Gender Inequality Accusations

European AGM is the Scene of Further Demonstrations as Staff Walk Out
Shipping News Feature
EUROPE – US – There are major demonstrations by workers today against alleged 'gender discrimination, sexual harassment and dangerous working practices' at depot's belonging to XPO Logistics, following on from similar actions by unions in April this year. The freight company has emphatically denied such claims in the past and at the time an XPO spokeswoman told us:

“Our global culture is one of safety and respect. The description of working conditions at our facilities is fiction, not fact. Regarding sexual harassment, we have zero tolerance for any form of harassment, and we promptly investigate all claims brought to our attention.”

The claim’s however persist and between 0900 and 1200 today we are told by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) that XPO staff from warehouses across France are walking out to protest what they say is XPO’s unwillingness to deal with ‘serious irregularities’ in pay and to show solidarity with others of their kind worldwide.

Also today, at the company’s European AGM in Lyon XPO workers will outline to shareholders their grievances with tales of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and, according to the ITF, even death in the workplace. There will be a presentation of a report ‘Women’s Wellbeing at XPO’ which outlines allegations of gender discrimination at the company’s facilities in Spain, with a specific case of the suppression of female rights at a plant dedicated to an Amazon contract.

One woman working at XPO Alovera, María Gema Mejia Ramos, describes how she works alongside men on tasks such as fork lift truck driving, operating machinery etc., having been trained to do so, but her pay is for lower category work. She says:

“There are several women, including me, who use the forklift… we have equal jobs and the same conditions of work, comparable and equal. The men are simply making more money than the women”

These complaints are the latest in a growing litany of international unrest surrounding the company. XPO has faced sexual misconduct allegations in Memphis reported in the Guardian and a campaign of hostility from the Teamsters Union, but continues to state that, considering the size of the company and the broad scope of its international operations, there are no serious problems. The unions obviously take a different view with ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton saying:

“It is clear that the problems at XPO are not isolated. Everywhere the company operates it brings with it a culture of discrimination against women. Along with this we already know about unsafe working practices and anti-union behaviour at XPO. It is now facing a global response from ITF unions and it is time that XPO management sat down with the ITF and its affiliates to start cleaning up its pernicious culture.”

The strength of feeling at today’s AGM, and the level of unrest at the French plants involved in demonstrations, can of course only be judged after the event and we shall report on the events subsequently.

Photo: The demonstrations today are not the first time the company has been subjected to such criticism.