(Photo: BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson holds a copy of the submission it presented before the NCP last December 2019)
Swiss National Contact Point accepts BWI submission
On 26 May, 2020 the Swiss National Contact Point released its initial assessment on a case, referred to as a “specific instance”, submitted by the BWI on 12 December 2019 based on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The NCP concludes, “This report on the initial assessment by the Swiss National Contact Point (hereafter “Swiss NCP”) that the issues raised in this submission merit further consideration on the specific context of the Philippines as well as on the global group level.”
BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson expressed satisfaction with the conclusion of the initial assessment and welcomed the offer of mediation. Acceptance of this case is a significant breakthrough. It offers hope for LaFargeHolcim workers in the Philippines and elsewhere.
Yuson explained, “Even for BWI, working with SENTRO, being on the ground and talking with the affected workers, it took some work to understand company moves and practices. Although the issues of the dispute were simple, they were deliberately confused. LafargeHolcim had woven a protective web to hide their responsibilities. This included using labour hire agencies, sub-contractors, precarious work practices and much more to try to avoid any responsibility for their serious abuses of the human rights of workers in the Philippines.”
Yuson went on to say, “Companies sometimes forget that with the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights with the corresponding changes in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Companies, ‘we did not break the law’ or ‘they were not our employees’ or ’the company works for us, not their workers’ no longer shields them from any and all responsibility.”
One of the arguments of the company was that following government approval, it would be selling Holcim Philippines and no longer have any responsibility. However, recently, it failed to obtain regulatory clearance from the Philippine Competition Commission. That should clarify the facts of the case and contribute to the NCP mediation process.
The NCP, in its decision, provided a brief, clear, and accurate summary of the BWI submission and of BWI expectations of the NCP. It then summarised the company response. That is followed by a timetable of proceedings since the submission, an identification of the parties and an explanation of further proceedings.
Beyond the details of this case and situation, Yuson observed, “Every day, in all regions of the world, we are facing complex corporate structures that are not transparent, additional complications of global supply chains and some very creative, if irresponsible, practices to avoid employment relationships.”
“We know that these radical changes in the organisation of work and confusion over ownership are challenging for NCPs and require them to get into cases in great detail. We prefer other, more direct ways to resolve conflicts. We once had a joint International Framework Agreement (BWI and IndustriALL) with Lafarge. We have spent years trying to negotiate an agreement with its successor company, but without success. With rare exceptions, in the many other companies where we have negotiated agreements and have active social dialogue processes, it has not been necessary to ask NCPs to intervene.”