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Shell worker abuses in Nigeria taken to UN Human Rights Council

15 March, 2019Royal Dutch Shell violations against contract workers in Nigeria came under scrutiny today at the 40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

In a joint statement to the General Assembly of the Human Rights Council, IndustriALL Global Union and Swiss organization, Europe-Third World Center (CETIM), said:

“Contract workers at Shell Nigeria are living in poverty, with no job security and poor healthcare that is costing workers’ lives. Contract workers face dismissal if they join a union or ask for a pay rise. They lack safety equipment and risk death in the field.”

IndustriALL, through its oil and gas trade union affiliate, NUPENG, represents contract workers at Shell Nigeria.

A recent IndustriALL mission to Port Harcourt in Nigeria found that most, if not all, of Shell Nigeria’s blue-collar workforce are employed by a complex network of recruitment companies on behalf of Shell, making it extremely difficult for workers to organize into trade unions and defend their rights.

A full written statement of the human rights violations of Shell contract workers in Nigeria was submitted to the General Assembly of the UN Human Rights Council and officially published last week.

“My recruiter doesn’t pay on time,” says a Shell contract worker in the statement. “I haven’t been paid for six months. My wage is only 50,000 naira (US$137) per month. I'm going to go home and beg my neighbour for food. For six months, my children can’t go to school. I’ve been working at Shell for 11 years, but I don’t have a carpet in my house. I don’t have a radio at home.”

IndustriALL has informed Shell of its mission findings but the energy giant has shrugged off the report and refuses to enter into discussions with IndustriALL.

“Shell is violating the human and labour rights of Nigerian workers with impunity, highlighting the urgent need for an international legally-binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational companies,” continues the oral statement.

IndustiALL and CETIM are calling on the authorities in Nigeria to honour their commitment to human rights and international labour standards by taking action to ensure that Shell Nigeria respects the rights of workers working on its behalf to safety, health, a decent income and freedom of association. They also call on the Human Rights Council to urge the Dutch government to hold Shell to account for violations committed on Nigerian soil.

In addition to the written and oral statement, CETIM and IndustriALL also organized a side-event on 7 March in parallel with the 40th session of the Human Rights Council to denounce human rights violations by Shell, and mining companies, BHP and Vale.