A scathing 36 page white paper entitled “Corporate Irresponsibility, Deutsche Post DHL’s Global Labour Practices Exposed”, has accused DHL of “a shopping list” of ethical violations in its treatment of workers outside Europe.
Unveiled on 9 May at DHL’s AGM in Frankfurt, the report investigated the company’s global labour rights records and treatment of workers, and exposes claims including union avoidance outside Europe and excessive use of temporary or agency workers.
Based on research by UNI Global Union and the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation), the report revealed widespread systematic abuses regarding freedom of association, and precarious work conditions, with workers fearing company retaliation when organising unions.
Specific allegations include subcontracted workers in Malaysia, Indonesia and India paid significantly less than employees when undertaking the same work, and those in Colombia, Costa Rica and South Africa forced to submit to lie detector tests, contradicting the company’s claim that it does not tolerate use of such tests. DHL has also been accused of health and safety violations. Its subsidiary, Exel, was fined more than $300 000 in the US earlier in the year. The labour rights violations contradict both the United Nations Global Compact which DP-DHL signed in 2006, and the company’s own corporate responsibility policies.
A DHL spokesperson responded, saying DHL is “aware that the Global Union Federations UNI and ITF have published a white paper. Before we can make any detailed comments, we still have to analyse the content in full. However, it is evident that the majority of the cases mentioned in the white paper are outdated, have been closed or are currently dealt with within the respective national legal procedures. In many of these cases, the actual facts significantly differ from those expressed by the trade unions.”
DHL claims the company has an international code of conduct ensuring ethical treatment of staff, is in constant dialogue with unions, and fully respects human rights in all countries in which it has a presence.
To ensure high standards are met throughout its operations, the unions are targeting the company’s leadership and shareholders.
Philip Jennings, UNI Global Union general secretary, commented: “If I were a shareholder, I would be asking some serious questions at the meeting.” He said: “DHL clearly needs to address these concerns if it is to be seen as an ethical and responsible global operator.”
The UNI Global Union and ITF are pushing DHL to sign a global framework agreement to ensure employees are given the same core rights in every country.
ITF general secretary David Cockroft stated: “At its best this company is very good indeed. At its worst it is racking up fines, allowing shameful abuses such as the use of lie detector tests and intimidation against innocent workers, and using workers employed on the cheap and with inadequate protection. Yet the high corporate responsibility ideals it aspires to are almost within its reach. It just needs to guarantee a decent standard of treatment for all its workers, not just some.”