30 October, 2018As General Electric (GE) posts its 3rd Quarter results today, IndustriALL Global Union has filed an OECD complaint against the American conglomerate for its direct links to serious and ongoing abuse of workers in Algeria.
IndustriALL and its Algerian affiliate, the Syndicat National Autonome des Travailleurs de L'électricité et du Gaz (SNATEG), have submitted the complaint after GE failed to address human rights violations linked to its multi billion-dollar partnership with Algeria’s state-owned energy company, Sonelgaz.
Since 2013, Sonelgaz has harassed, threatened, fired or disciplined over a thousand SNATEG leaders and members on account of their union activity, making it impossible for the union to function effectively.
Sonelgaz has and continues to oppress SNATEGs members and leaders through the judicial system and summoned 1,114 union members to court for taking strike action in 2017.
“General Electric is directly linked to serious human rights violations in Algeria and has failed to address them. GE has ignored our warnings about these abuses, so we’ve asked the OECD to intervene,” says IndustriALL general secretary, Valter Sanches.
IndustriALL and at least four trade union affiliates with members at GE have written to the company on numerous occasions since January 2018, urging GE to carry out due diligence at its operations in Algeria, but GE has given no response.
GE’s partnership with Sonelgaz includes a 20-year services deal valued at more than US$3 billion and a US$2.7 billion deal to supply large gas turbines and related technology to nine power plants in the country. GE has multiple joint ventures with Sonelgaz and delivers management training programs for Sonelgaz executives.
SNATEG president, Raouf Mellal, who was sacked by Sonelgaz for his union activities, has been sentenced to a total of 18 months in prison with fines of 10,000 euros (US$12,300) on seven spurious charges. It includes a six-month sentence for exposing the decade-long illicit inflation of electricity bills by Sonelgaz, affecting eight million households in Algeria. Mellal has been forced to move to a secret address to avoid harassment and intimidation from authorities.
Abdelkader Kawafi, general secretary of SNATEG, was convicted and sentenced to three months in prison because of press statements in which he spoke about precarious work at Sonelgaz. Similarly, dismissed union leader, Benzine Slimane, president of SNATEG security guards and protection union, was fined and sentenced to prison and is being pursued by Sonelgaz in four arbitrary cases. According to the union, he is accused by Sonelgaz of defamation for calling for an end to sexual harassment of female workers.
This persecution has been documented by the International Labour Organization, which has expressed serious concern at trade union repression at Sonelgaz and by the Algerian government. A planned ILO mission to the country in February this year had to be abandoned after the government refused to allow meetings with SNATEG and other independent unions in the country.
The complaint against GE has been submitted by IndustriALL and SNATEG to the OECD’s National Contact Point in the United States.