How unions used the OECD to create permanent jobs and workers’ rights in Pakistan
There is a fairly obscure part of BIS called the National Contact Point for the OECD multinational enterprises guidelines (catchy name, huh?) At the end of October, it created 200 permanent jobs for previously temporary agency workers at a Unilever factory in Pakistan. Ron Oswald, the head of the global union federation IUF, described it at the time as “what proved to be the critically valuable OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises process in the UK”.
The NCP has just published its final report on the case, hard on the heels of a report from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights which called for the NCP, and the OECD guidelines themselves, to be enhanced. The IUF-Unilever case is an example of the system working – it could indeed be better, but mostly, unions need to know more about how to use the OECD Guidelines to complain about unethical behaviour by their employers, and then use the mechanisms that exist.
Here are some comments from the Pakistani workers, reported on the IUF website, about what the decision meant to them:
Action Committee Chairman Siddiq Aassi said “I have been working at Unilever Khanewal for more than 20 years, but never imagined I would one day enter the factory as a permanent worker.” “It was a dream for us to get permanent jobs at the Unilever Khanewal tea factory”, says Mukhtar Ahmed, Action Commmittee Secretary”, “I don’t have the words to express my feelings.” According to Shahzad Saleem, Action Committee Joint Secretary, “Nobody in the factory and even in Khanewal can believe it – [when we started the struggle] people told us we would just hit a rock and be crushed.”