Friday, May 27, 2011

Express Freight Carrier Deutsche Post DHL Criticised For Employment Practices

Company's Social Responsibility Report Called 'A Fairy Tale' by Unions
Shipping News Feature

GERMANY – WORLDWIDE – There were demonstrations at express freight group DHL’s AGM in Frankfurt this week by unions against what they describe as ‘the disregard of fundamental labour rights’ by the Deutsche Post DHL group. The company stands accused of extreme employment practices in several of the countries in which it operates, charges strenuously denied in a statement to the Handy Shipping Guide.

Demonstrations centred around the recently published 2010 Corporate Social Responsibility Report 2010 (currently headlining the group website) which outlines the responsibility of the company to its employees, a report described by Ingo Marowsky, organising globally co-ordinator for the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) as ‘a Grimm’s fairy tale’ when addressing the board during shareholders questions.

Outside the meeting demonstrators acted out scenarios of staff being subjected to lie detector tests after accusations that DHL management employ the devices in Panama and Costa Rica and has allegedly promised improvement. Now however the ITF and the UNI Global Union in Central America say the practice has been extended to Colombia and South Africa.

The unions accuse DHL of placing employees in a culture of fear and unwarranted suspicion with suspect staff dismissed out of hand. Edwin Velasquez Ayala of Colombia says he was the victim of such a lie detector test carried out by former military officers following which he was dismissed with no reason given, “The test carried out by DHL split my life in half. It destroyed my self esteem completely,” he said.

The company were also accused of sacking workers in Guatemala simply for meeting union officials in a region where employment is a precious commodity and the two union groups are demanding DHL sign an international framework agreement, which would guarantee all of their 400,000+ employees worldwide a minimum level of workers' rights. UNI and the ITF tell us they are also considering accusations regarding DHL’s employment practices in New Zealand, Malawi, India and Panama and are researching the details of any alleged incidents.

In response Deutsche Post DHL tell us it sees no reason for implementing an international framework agreement. In a statement the group says:

“Deutsche Post DHL is guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the conventions issued by the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the United Nations Global Compact to which Deutsche Post DHL has been a signatory since 2006.

“Also in 2006, Deutsche Post DHL implemented a Code of Conduct, which acknowledges our support for the UN Global Compact, and through which we commit to operating based on the principles of integrity, responsibility, ethical acceptability and legality. The Code applies to every employee in our Group and its subsidiaries around the world. We expect and require from our managers that they actively support our Code of Conduct.

“In our current Communication On Progress (COP) we confirm that: ‘We respect the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in accordance with national laws and customs’.

“We do not tolerate violations against these principles. If we get knowledge of a violation we investigate every single case. In an organization with more than 470.000 employees you can not generally eliminate individual erratic behaviour and we are in a constructive dialogue with UNI and ITF on a global level, which will continue.”

This is not the first time there has been outspoken criticism of the German freight and transport group, in February we published what we thought was a good news item regarding the investment DHL were making in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport and were flooded with comments regarding the company’s employment practices, many of which were unprintable. You can see that article HERE.

Photo: Protestors at the DHL AGM demonstrate their allegations of lie detector tests.