Swiss company sacks union leader in Pakistan

Posted: February 28, 2011 in Rights around the world
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Man spraying herbicide/pesticide in a research...

Image by IITA Image Library via Flickr

Syngenta may not be a household name but its products are used extensively in agriculture and therefore food production. Its main line of business are herbicides and insecticides.

The company is headquartered in Switzerland and has operations around the world.

Just before Christmas the head of the local union in a Syngenta plant in Pakistan (who is also a shop-floor employee) was dismissed without adequate justification. Mr. Imran Ali was preparing to present the  company with demands of temporary workers at the plant that they be given permanent contracts and thus have some security of employment.

As it has the effect of stymieing the local union’s efforts, Syngenta’s action amounts to an attack on both the right to free association and the right to bargain collectively both of which are protected by international laws and by the UN Global Compact to which Syngenta is a signatory.

Both the local union and ICEM*, the global union confederation, condemned the action.

What makes this action especially egregious is that it is not a local supplier in breach of fair labour standards. If that were the case the company could run Coca-Cola’s line about the independence of its bottlers. Rather, the action was taken by a local Syngenta manager. It runs clearly contrary to the company’s own Code of Conduct and CR statements, in at least three respects. The following are direct quotations:

[C]ommitment to comply with all labor laws […] These include the right to freedom of association, the right to organize and collective bargaining…

…value and respect the diverse talent and creative potential of its employees…

…foster open and direct communication throughout the organisation…

Seek and respond to feedback from […] stakeholders

The good folks at Labourstart have set up a web page where the concerned public can send a message to Syngenta executives reminding them of their obligations:

Tell Syngenta to reinstate Imran Ali and listen to his demands on behalf of its employees

*Edit 9/3/14: ICEM is now a part of IndustriALL


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