DNO, the Norwegian oil company that abandoned its Yemeni workforce without pay when war broke out, has failed to respect a Yemeni Supreme Court judgement against it.
In April 2015, after civil war broke out, DNO fired its Yemeni workforce by text message and left the country. In doing so it violated its production contract with the Yemeni government, as well as labour law. DNO paid neither wages nor severance packages workers.
The DNO Yemen Union has fought for justice for the workers, primarily through the legal system. The union approached the Ministry of Oil after the illegal terminations, who found that the employment contracts were still valid and the workers were entitled to full pay. The company ignored a summons from the ministry, and was taken to court.
DNO has subsequently lost a series of court cases, and in each case has appealed the verdict. In August 2016, the labour court found in favour of the workers. DNO appealed, and in February 2017, the appeal court ruled that DNO should pay 75 per cent of outstanding salaries and bonuses. Instead of complying, DNO appealed to the Supreme Court.
On 18 February 2018, the Supreme Court in Sana'a rejected the appeal and upheld the verdict of the appeal court. DNO has failed to comply with the ruling.
In the meantime, the 175 workers are waiting for justice, and face many problems, including:
- The transfer of their jobs to the government has been kept on hold by the legal process.
- They have not been paid for three years. The war has lead to a currency collapse and soaring prices, meaning they are under tremendous economic pressure.
- The value of the payout is diminishing as the currency collapses. DNO owes US $2.5 million in end of service benefits, but if the company pays in Yemeni Riyals, the dollar amount will be significantly less.
- Families have taken their children out of school. One worker has died due to an inability to afford medical treatment.
DNO Yemen Union has been assisted by IndustriALL Global Union and Norwegian affiliate Industri Energi. At a recent meeting in Beirut, Espen Løken of Industri Energi explained the steps his union had taken to support the DNO Yemen union. In December 2016, Industri Energi filed a complaint with the Norwegian contact point for responsible business, which ensures that Norwegian companies abide by OECD guidelines for responsible business.
The OECD contact point released its final report on 9 April 2018, and found that DNO had failed to abide by OECD guidelines on notification and consultation.
“It is clear that DNO did not notify or consult with the workers or their representatives before the dismissals were made and production suspended in Yemen.”
IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:
“DNO is dragging out the process because it wants to wear down its opponents through attrition. It may take time, but we will win justice for the workers in Yemen. We will also strengthen our organizing at DNO sites across the region, so workers can better defend themselves against this shameful company.”