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Settlement Secures Permanent Jobs for Dismissed Temps at Unilever Pakistan Rahim Yar Khan

Posted to the IUF website 01-Jul-2009

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A settlement between the IUF and Unilever has secured the creation of new permanent positions for all the union-supported Action Committee members at the company's factory in Rahim Yar Khan, Pakistan. With the support of the National Federation of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Workers, these workers had challenged - on the streets and in the courts - their precarious employment status and the brutal mass dismissals which resulted from this challenge in October 2007. The Action Committee was formed to fight for their appointment as directly employed permanent workers with the right to join the union.

The settlement was negotiated under the auspices of the UK National Contact Point for the OECD, where the IUF had filed a complaint. The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises require overseas subsidiaries of transnational companies to conform to international standards of trade union and human rights, including adherence to ILO Conventions on the right of workers to organize trade unions and bargain collectively with employers.

The settlement stipulates that Unilever will create 120 new permanent positions at the plant, effective as of June 24 this year, and that all Action Committee members will be appointed to these positions. According to the agreement, these workers shall suffer no discrimination at the factory, and the company pledges to abstain from interference in the work of the union in which they will now be members. For the small number of Action Committee members who do not currently meet the education requirements, Unilever will provide a scholarship of up to two years equivalent to the monthly permanent wage, plus medical insurance. During this time, permanent positions are to be held open.

While Unilever publicly refuses to acknowledge that the dismissed temporary workers were sacked because they challenged the discriminatory employment regime, the dismissed former temps who do not receive new positions are to receive a lump sum payment equivalent to just under three years of their previous monthly wage. Those appointed to permanent jobs will receive a smaller lump sum payment. Implementation of the agreement will be monitored by the IUF and Unilever at local and international level.

The Rahim Yar Khan settlement constitutes an important union victory in the fight against disposable jobs and Unilever's strategy of reducing union bargaining power by radically shrinking the number of permanent employees eligible for union membership and inclusion in the collective bargaining unit.

The struggle against disposable jobs continues at the company's Lipton/Brooke Bond tea factory in Khanewal, Pakistan, where a grand total of 22 workers out of over 500 (and at times over 700) are directly employed, with the remainder supplied by labour contractors. As at Rahim Yar Khan, a union-supported Action Committee is struggling for direct employment and union membership and bargaining rights. While publicly claiming to be "addressing" the issue, Unilever management has been seeking to destroy the movement by denying the workers employment under the "No work, no pay" system while bringing in new contract workers, driving them deeper into poverty and debt.

The Khanewal workers still face a long, hard struggle - you can support them now by sending a message to Unilever!

Regular updates on the Khanewal campaign are available at www.casualtea.org