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DNO Yemen union wins case against Norwegian oil company

1 September, 2016The labour court of Yemen has found in favour of the union after 200 staff were sacked by text message.

The Yemeni labour court in Sana’a ruled on 3 August 2016 that Norwegian oil company DNO should pay the wages of the workers it sacked, or have its property confiscated and assets seized.

IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the General Union of Petroleum, Minerals and Chemical workers in Yemen, which represents DNO workers, took the company to court after it sacked 200 staff in by text message and email in April 2015, leaving them destitute.

The law in Yemen states that if a company is granted a license to operate an oil field, it must pay wages and social obligations for as long it has the license. DNO used the war and political situation in Yemen to avoid responsibility for its staff, terminating its operations on 27 April 2015. The company paid no redundancy or compensation, and staff were left without a social and economic safety net in a country that stands on the brink of collapse.

“DNO workers have nothing, and many of them are struggling terribly. There is a war and lack of food, and several of the families of workers now have no money to buy food and go hungry. The situation for workers with families with small children is serious,” said union leader Ryadh Al-Gharady.

The union won recognition at DNO in 2010, and has fought a number of battles with the company to defend workers’ rights. After the sackings, the union was supported in an international campaign by Norwegian affiliate of IndustriALL Industri Energi, as well as by IndustriALL. Industri Energi petitioned the company’s headquarters in Oslo, while IndustriALL sent messages of support and solidarity.

The court ruled that:

  1. There will be a continuity of contracts
  2. The company must pay 75% of salaries from June 2015, including the 2015 Ramadhan bonus. Medical fees are excluded.
  3. The company must pay 50,000 Yemeni Riyals (US $200) per employee in legal fees

There are concerns that DNO will appeal the verdict, or simply refuse to pay.

“We will not keep silent about our rights and if they appeal, we will appeal. We will not keep silent about our rights with such a greedy company.

“Unless DNO pay us what the law requires and as the court has stated, we will pursue this internationally,” said Al-Gharady

Leif Sande, Industri Energi president and co-chair of the IndustriALL energy sector, said:

“The judgement in Yemen is entirely appropriate, and DNO must take responsibility to pay its workers’ wages. They cannot continue to avoid this, as they have for several years. DNO is trading on the positive image of Norway abroad while evading its social obligations.”

Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary said:

“We are very pleased that the labour court has found in favour of the union. It is unacceptable that DNO has dodged its responsibility for so long. We urge the country to pay what it owes. We will continue to stand by our affiliate in Yemen until they receive justice.”

DNO has around 260 workers in Yemen and a license to operate six oilfields. The company has extracted over 100 million barrels of oil from Yemen. DNO began operation in Yemen in 2000.