Monday, April 16, 2018

Union Unrest at Major Freight and Logistics Outfit Goes Global

Paris the Scene for European Protest After US Employment Problems
Shipping News Feature
US – EUROPE – WORLDWIDE – It seems that the business of running a global freight business is fraught with potential conflict. In trying to beat competitors on a seemingly level playing field the business of achieving profits is often accompanied by a lowering of standards, often affecting the performance of the business (witness Chickengate) or creating unrest amongst employees. Whilst companies such as DHL have attracted a litany of criticism for years over their employment practices Brad Jacobs, boss of XPO Logistics, has been comparatively untouched, despite his reputation as one who buys up and consolidates companies.

Of late however the familiar symptoms have appeared and today XPO workers and union activists from Belgium, France, Spain, the UK and US held a press conference in Paris to reveal further evidence of what they term ‘worker abuse’ at the company. Certainly some of the criticisms are harsh in the extreme but, despite our requests to XPO in the US and in Europe, no one has replied to our enquiries asking for the company perspective.

The complaints are being led by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and the latest protest is part of an ongoing global campaign against the company, which stands accused of incidents of sexual harassment, dangerous working conditions, a death at an XPO site, gender pay discrimination, exploitative employment arrangements and anti-union activity.

The ITF calls XPOs European growth policy ‘aggressive’ buying up local companies like France’s huge Norbert Dentressangle and saying this is simply an extension of unrest which has been seen in the US for some time. Specific allegations include:

  • In France and Belgium, XPO is delaying the payment of overtime
  • In Spain, women employees who work a shortened day due to family responsibilities, a legal right in Spain, have been refused further training or advancement. Women employers are doing the same work for less pay, not even work of equal value, but the same work
  • In the UK, XPO’s gender pay gap report revealed female workers in their transport business earn on average 14% less per hour
American media has recently reported on the accusations of sexual harassment and dangerous working conditions at XPO. A recent television report can be seen here in which the company is criticised, and a statement from Elizabeth Howley, who works at the XPO warehouse in Memphis, Tennessee, USA, where the unions say a worker recently died, describes the conditions workers face, saying:

“XPO management forces workers to remove their bras at the security checkpoint, we see snakes, rats, lizards and bugs. We don't have any nurses or defibrillators, and no one is allowed to do CPR, even if certified. A co-worker died and we had to work around her body. We don't deserve to be treated like this. No one does."

The Teamsters Union has been organising protests against XPO in the US for some time over these and other accusations and now the situation in Europe is under the spotlight with a statement from FO Force Ouvrière, the union organisation in France which supports many ex Dentressangle workers now transferred to XPO, saying:

“It is now clear that the problems in XPO are not limited to the American workforce. XPO Logistics is a rotten employer all over Europe, and this is a priority for unions in France, Spain, Belgium, the UK and across the EU. By standing together, we can stop the rot at XPO in Europe, and make the company change its ways in the US.”