Unilever PLC, India (Doom Dooma) V International Union of Food Workers (IUF)

Overview

NCP Decision Accepted
Current Status Closed
Date Submitted 01/10/2007
Date Closed 18/10/2010
Case Duration 159 weeks and 0 days
Host Country India  (OECD Enhanced Engagement)
Sector Food, Agriculture and Tobacco 
Issue(s) Use of precarious work to deny workers the right to freedom of association and to collective bargaining in violations of ILO Conventions 87 and 98
Provisions Cited IV.1-a  IV.7   
Case Description In October 2007, the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) submitted a complaint to the UK NCP against Hindustan Unilever Limited.

The workers were locked out of the company’s plant in the Doom Dooma Industrial Estate in the Indian state of Assam from 15th July to 3rd September 2007 because of a dispute over salaries. According to the 2004 collective agreement, the workers were entitled to a monthly settlement implementation allowance from 1 April 2007, which the company refused to pay.

In order to end the lockout, management requested the workers to leave the HLWU union and to join a new 'yellow' union (HUSS) that it had itself created. Workers were visited at their homes by the HUSS and threatened with the loss of their jobs and/or closure of the plant if they did not terminate their union membership. Furthermore, one worker was attacked and beaten while collecting signatures in support of the locked-out workers.

When the lockout was lifted on 3rd September, only those workers that agreed to sign a printed form renouncing their union membership and joining the new union were allowed to enter the factory.

Developments In April 2008, the case was accepted by the UK NCP in April 2008, but then suspended due to parallel proceedings in the host country India. Throughout 2008, the threats and harassment of workers continued. Management appeared to be working with local police and politicians to harass the HLWU and prevent it from exercising its rights under Indian and international law. When the president of the HLWU - after being threatened and physically assaulted - tried to file a complaint, the local police refused to accept his deposition. Hindustan Unilever managers and police together tried to force workers to attend a HUSS meeting by visiting them in their homes. When the workers refused, they were again threatened.

On 5 March 2010, the UK NCP lifted its suspension following the application of its guidance on parallel legal proceedings, introduced in September 2009. In applying its guidance, the UK NCP gave both parties the opportunity to comment on the application of the guidance to this complaint and/or to request that the complaint be suspended in line with the criteria set out in the guidance. The UK NCP concluded that the case should be progressed in accordance with the UK NCP's complaint procedure. It then offered professional conciliation/mediation to the parties. This was accepted by the parties.

The case was before the courts in India until February 2010, when the court ruled that it had 'no jurisdiction'.

Outcome The UK NCP appointed an external arbitrator and mediator John Mulholland to serve as conciliator-mediator. The parties met on 21 May 2010 and the 7 July 2010 in London. Both meetings were chaired by Mr Mulholland. No mediation was required as the parties agreed a mutually acceptable solution to the complaint through conciliation. Both parties agreed that the full text of the agreement can be published and that there were no outstanding issues from the IUF’s original complaint that need to be examined by the UK NCP. The parties also agreed that the implementation of the attached agreement will be jointly monitored by Unilever and the IUF at national and international levels.

The full text of the agreement reached by the parties was attached as an annex to this Final Statement.

Organisations

Lead NCP UK NCP : Bi-ministerial plus Multi-stakeholder Independent Board 

Companies

Multinational Company Unilever PLC (Home country: UK, Netherlands)
Subsidiary Hindustan Unilever (Home country: India)

Complainants

Lead Complainant International Union of Food Workers (IUF) : Global Union Federation 

Related Documents

UK NCP  [Publication date: 18/10/2010] 'Final Statement by the UK National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises Complaint against Unilever plc (Doom Dooma factory – Assam – India)'
   http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/business-sectors/docs/f/10-1228-final-stat
   ement-ncp-iuf-unilever-doom-dooma.pdf
[Date URL accessed: 9/1/2011]

TUAC Analysis

Did the NCP publish its initial assessment? status-icon
Did the case involve parallel proceedings? status-icon
Was the existence of parallel proceedings an obstacle to the NCP accepting the case? status-icon
Was the businsess relationship other than that of a subsidiary? status-icon
Was the nature of the business relationship an obstacle to the NCP accepting the case? status-icon
Did the NCP inform other relevant government departments about its acceptance of this case? status-icon
Did the NCP offer mediation or conciliation? status-icon
Did the company accept the offer of mediation or conciliation? status-icon
Did the complainant(s) accept the offer of mediation or conciliation? status-icon
Was mediation or conciliation held? status-icon
Was mediation or conciliation conducted by a professional mediator? status-icon
Did the parties reach agreement? status-icon
If yes, did the NCP publish this agreement following the consent of the parties? status-icon
If mediation was refused or failed did the NCP make an assessment of whether the company had breached the Guidelines? status-icon
Did the NCP conduct in-host country fact finding? status-icon
Did the NCP make recommendations to the company on the future implementation of the Guidelines? status-icon
Did the NCP publish its final statement or report? status-icon
Did the NCP provide for follow-up of the agreement/recommendations? status-icon
Did the NCP inform other relevant government departments about its final statement or report? status-icon
Did the NCP inform public pension funds about its final statement or report? status-icon
Did the NCP apply any consequences in this case? status-icon
Did the NCP follow the indicative timescales set out in the procedural guidance? status-icon
Was there a positive outcome for the workers involved in this case? status-icon
Did the filing of the case under the Guidelines have a positive impact for the workers involved? status-icon
Did the lead NCP play a positive role? status-icon
If different, did the home NCP play a positive role? status-icon

Implications

The UK NCP applied its 2009 guidance on parallel legal proceedings and as result accepted the case following its initial suspension