The international trade union movement has launched a global campaign to convince German post and logistics giant Deutsche Post DHL to allow all its workers throughout the world to join unions without fear or interference. In Germany – and in general within the European Union – the company respects the law and engages in social dialogue. However, outside of Germany it can be a different story. The majority of DHL workers do not have a union, collective contract or real workers’ rights. In fact, the company stands accused in some countries of having ignored its responsibility to be neutral towards trade unions, and even of trying to keep unions out of workplaces.
We are asking Deutsche Post DHL to respect fundamental rights for all those who work for it around the world, in line with international legal standards. We are asking for DHL to respect workers rights by respecting the right of freedom of association and the right to organise. A global framework agreement would help us protect these rights.
This campaign is run jointly by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and UNI Global Union (UNI).
A global union agreement (also known as a global framework agreement) is a voluntary agreement between a company and a global union on behalf of its members. We are pushing for Deutsche Post DHL to sign such an agreement with UNI and the ITF. Many other global companies have signed one, including G4S, Volkswagen, IKEA, H&M and France Telecom.
These agreements cover minimum standards the company must meet in its operations throughout the world such as:
Freedom of association
Elimination of forced or compulsory labour
Elimination of discrimination in respect to employment and occupation
Signing a global union agreement is a key way to safeguard labour and human rights in the operations of multinational companies. The feedback from unions around the world and resulting social dialogue helps ensure the company is meeting its obligations under international law. With our help, Deutsche Post DHL could do better.
Deutsche Post DHL has voluntarily agreed to uphold the highest international and national standards when it comes to labour rights. This means not trying to stop workers forming a union. Yet trade unions have accused the company of doing just that in some of the countries in which it operates.
The company has a code of conduct based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Global Compact of the United Nations. ILO Conventions and the Global Compact (which it has signed) make it clear that businesses should uphold freedom of association and recognise the right to collective bargaining. Despite Deutsche Post DHL’s commitment to these principles, we have recorded systematic infringements of workers’ freedom of association rights at its facilities around the world.
We expect freedom of association. We expect proper dialogue. We expect better.
Unions around the world are coming together to promote labour rights inside Deutsche Post DHL because there is a recognition that globalisation can only work if it works for all stakeholders. Furthermore, Deutsche Post DHL seems to be weathering the financial crisis quite well. The company made 46,201 million euros in revenue in 2009 and 51,481 million euros in 2010. This is not a company in financial distress.
Weakening labour rights for one group of employees is likely to be copied in other countries, leading to lower standards of living, and a slower rebound from the recession. Now is the best time for Deutsche Post DHL workers to organise in unions. The time has come for the German government to end the hypocrisy on labour and human rights. As the most significant owner of Deutsche Post DHL, it has a clear responsibility to ensure high standards in all countries in which the company operates.
Success will come when, first, Deutsche Post DHL permits all workers worldwide to join a union without employer opposition; second, when Deutsche Post DHL management does not interfere with any workers’ right to freely communicate with each other and the union about organising; and third, when all workers can actively exercise their bargaining rights and achieve a contract that improves their working conditions. We urge Deutsche Post DHL to say to their workers and the global labour movement, ‘We support our employees’ rights to organise and collectively bargain without opposition or interference.’
That policy must be implemented and enforced through a global union agreement.