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Unilever Yet Again in the Dock at OECD over Human Rights Abuses - This Time in Pakistan

Posted to the IUF website 22-Nov-2007

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Pressure is building on Unilever at the OECD, whose Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises require overseas subsidiaries of transnational companies to conform to international standards of trade union and human rights. Fourteen months after the IUF charged Unilever with gross violations of the Guidelines through the fraudulent sale and closure of the company's Mumbai (Bombay) factory in India, and a scant three weeks after the IUF charged the company with vicious union-busting in the Indian state of Assam, brutal human rights violations - this time in Pakistan - have again landed Unilever in the dock at the OECD.

Unilever management has escalated its assault against the union at its Rahim Yar Khan factory by militarizing the plant through the massive presence of armed police, elite military troops and private security guards. When the union announced its attention to open its membership to "temporary" workers, many of whom have worked at the plant for years, and to assist them in gaining the status of permanent workers which the law grants to all employees with more than 9 months' continuous service, the company instantly fired all but 5 of the 292 temporary workers at the plant. They were replaced by casual agency workers, who have no legal possibility to be made permanent no matter how long they work for Unilever Pakistan.

The mass firing of workers struggling for a minimum of job security at the Rahim Yar Khan plant belongs to Unilever's systematic erosion of decent work and permanent employment status for its workers in Pakistan and in many other countries. Unilever Pakistan Ltd. employs some 8,000 people at five factories and offices in Pakistan. But of the total workforce employed in these five factories, only 509 are employed on permanent contracts. Despite having worked at the company for over nine months of continuous service, the vast majority of Unilever Pakistan employees are legally classified as "temporary". They work for inferior wages, inferior or no benefits (including medical and retirement insurance), and can be summarily dismissed. Casual agency workers do not even have the theoretical possibility of advancing from "temporary" to permanent status.

The union is fighting back by building support in Pakistan and through the IUF internationally. As part of the fightback, the IUF has filed a submission with the National Contact Point of the OECD in the UK, where the parent company Unilever Plc is headquartered.

You can read the IUF submission to the OECD by clicking here.