Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sparks to Fly at Freight and Logistics Giant’s AGM as Unions Mass Ranks

Deutsche Post DHL Still Have Not Answered Two Year Old Questions About Their Employment Practices Overseas
Shipping News Feature

GERMANY – WORLDWIDE – Sparks are expected to fly at the Deutsche Post DHL annual general meeting in Frankfurt tomorrow (29 May 2013) as unions gather to voice their ongoing objections to what they describe as ‘a growing catalogue of workers’ rights abuses’ by the freight and logistics group. Stories about DHL's labour policies have featured prominently here over the past year and, despite promises to investigate numerous allegations of widespread victimisation of workers in countries other than that of its home nation, the unions allege nothing whatsoever has resulted from these.

Two years ago we published a host of accusations made by the UNI global union and the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) who once again say they want answers, and action from the company. The two organisations have repeatedly held the company to account over abuses of workers’ rights in countries where it operates and which, they say, it would never dare commit in Germany. They have alleged how it has illegally fired workers in Turkey and used lie detectors against staff in Colombia, Panama and South Africa; and relied on agency workers to work on lower wages and with no job security in the UK, Malaysia, Indonesia and India. The unions say one DHL company was even fined after staffing a US factory with students who thought they were on a cultural exchange.

The freight group’s handling of the labour situation has even been featured on German TV and concerns about DP-DHL’s behaviour in some of the countries in which it operates will be raised inside the AGM as well as outside, where protestors from the ver.di union and Turkish community groups will also be highlighting these issues. Alan Tate, UNI campaigns director, commented:

“DHL’s tactics in Turkey are unlawful under Turkish labour law – and some of them may also violate its criminal code – and violations of ILO (International Labour Organization) conventions and other international standards on freedom of association. The company’s defence of its use of a ‘yellow’ (fake) union is risible. According to the official statistics from the Turkish Ministry of Labour released in January 2013, when DHL were proclaiming it as a viable choice, this bogus ‘union’ had only 26 members in the entire country. Its creation is a cynical ploy. The ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) has expressed its concern to us over this.”

Unions will picket the AGM whilst opposite the Jahrhunderthalle where the AGM is taking place they will conduct a press conference. Amongst the representatives will be Ingo Marowsky, ITF global head of supply chain and logistics, who said:

“The questions are piling up for DHL and this AGM is just one of the places where they’ll be asked. Questions such as what’s happening in Turkey? How can you allow your management there to sack workers who have chosen to join a trade union? How is it acceptable for you to ignore them and sponsor a rival union whose only DHL members are those reportedly forced to join by managers?

“And there are more questions that shareholders, investors and customers want answered too, about how all this can be reconciled with DHL’s corporate responsibility policies and claimed observance of the UN Global Compact. And why the company is in court in Turkey and has been hauled up in front of the OECD. The facts are there for all to see. We, unlike DHL, have scrupulously investigated what’s going on. We have commissioned independent research and shared and published it. Sadly the company has continued to hide behind commercial confidentiality and never-revealed ‘audits’, or claims that it would be ‘inappropriate to make any further comment about the court cases’.”

The continued campaign by the unions to shame DP-DHL into explaining their actions has escalated recently with their concerns being circulated amongst the management of numerous well known household brands who are customers of the logistics group and follow similar demonstrations at the AGM two years ago. An upbeat article about investment in a USA air cargo hub written here in February 2011 met with a torrent of abuse from disgruntled ex workers, many too graphic to print in the comments at the foot of the story.

Photo: Pickets from the Turkish Tumtis union protesting outside a DHL hub.