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Trade unions file OECD case against Renault-Nissan Alliance in three countries

20 December, 2016Calling for the correction of the failure of French Renault S.A., Japanese Nissan Motor Co. and Dutch Renault-Nissan BV to undertake due diligence in order to avoid and address serious labour right violations reported at Nissan North America Inc.’s (NNA) manufacturing facilities in Canton, Mississippi, IndustriALL and its US affiliate the United Auto Workers (UAW) is seeking the good offices of the National Contact Points (NCPs) for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in three countries. The case follows strong recommendations delivered by the US NCP, including the offer of mediation, which were rejected by Nissan North America. 

Today in The Hague, Tokyo and Paris, the UAW and IndustriALL filed their case under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises against Renault-Nissan BV, Nissan and Renault, with the NCPs for the OECD of The Netherlands, Japan and France. The unions request that these NCPs support their calls to put an end to the systematic, prolonged and serious violations of labor rights that have been taking place at Nissan North America Inc.’s plant in Canton, Mississippi. The unions also hope the NCPs will attempt to mediate with all three entities as all have responsibility to undertake human rights due diligence concerning ongoing reported violations relating to the business activities of Nissan’s manufacturing facilities in Mississippi.

The violations condemned by the UAW and IndustriALL are documented in a report based on interviews with workers, testimonies and documents from Nissan. They include aggressive policies and practices of union avoidance, harassment and intimidation, which instill fear at work with the aim of preventing workers from securing union representation. For years, management at Nissan and Renault have repeatedly ignored calls from workers and policy-makers to use their powers to address these global human rights violations.

The UAW and IndustriALL previously submitted a case against Nissan and Nissan North America with the U.S. NCP. These proceedings ended in January 2015 with the Final Statement of the U.S. NCP confirming that the “issues raised by UAW/IndustriALL merited further examination under the Guidelines”, but noting that Nissan was not willing to accept the NCP’s offer of mediation.

The U.S. NCP also noted in its Final Statement that the NCPs of The Netherlands, Japan and France were consulted throughout the process and would remain available to offer assistance to the parties. While Nissan is a Japanese corporation, it is linked through cross-ownership with French automaker Renault, with Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn serving as CEO of both companies and of their Alliance, the Renault-Nissan BV incorporated in the Netherlands.

Having failed since then to obtain a remedy from Nissan, and in light of persistent and egregious violations of the OECD Guidelines, the UAW and IndustriALL are following the recommendations of the US NCP and seeking the assistance of the Dutch, Japanese and French NCPs with the hope of a fair union election in Mississippi. The NCPs will have three months to announce their recommendations.

IndustriALL General Secretary, Valter Sanches, said:

The Renault-Nissan Alliance has direct influence over the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, and that's why we’re taking our case to the countries where the control lies. Nissan workers around the world are free to join a union but not in Canton, Mississippi. The harassment and intimidation of Nissan workers wanting to unionize must stop. IndustriALL has long backed UAW’s fight to represent workers at Canton, Mississippi, with actions in the U.S., Brazil, Switzerland and France, and we will not back down until the workers get a fair election.

UAW Secretary-Treasurer and Transnational Department Director Gary Casteel said:

The Renault-Nissan Alliance’s repeated failures to address the serious workers’ rights and civil rights violations in Mississippi are deeply troubling to the UAW and the workers’ allies, in the U.S. and around the world. We hope that OECD officials recognize the severity of the situation and will consider intervening in the interest of ensuring the health, safety and well-being of the hard-working employees in Canton. The UAW appreciates the firm support of IndustriALL in this matter.

A growing number of workers at Nissan’s plant in Canton, Mississippi, have expressed their desire for union representation as a reaction to poor and deteriorating working conditions. By some estimates, many of the 5,000 workers at Nissan’s Mississippi plant are temporary employees who work for years earning significantly lower wages and benefits than regular employees. Workers also are concerned about safety issues inside the plant which recently led to a fine by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

The UAW is assisting workers who desire union representation, but Nissan has – over a period of years – worked overtime to undermine workers’ rights through threats and intimidation. The anti-worker situation in Mississippi has drawn attention from the U.S. State Department, the National Labor Relations Board, international labor allies, and even members of the European and French Parliaments and French government, the latter being the largest shareholder of Nissan’s partner, Renault. Renault currently holds 42.4 % of Nissan’s capital. The two companies formed the Renault-Nissan Alliance that is integrating key business segments, including human resources. Despite the growing criticism, Renault-Nissan refuses to back down.

OECD Guidelines

The OECD Guidelines are a unique set of government-backed international corporate accountability principles aimed at encouraging responsible business conduct. They establish minimum international standards for companies to meet in terms of labor and human rights for ensuring these rights are respected. The Guidelines also prescribe procedures for resolving disputes between corporations and civil society, trade unions or individuals negatively impacted by corporate activities. Governments that adhere to the Guidelines must establish a National Contact Point to promote the Guidelines and handle complaints against companies that have allegedly failed to adhere to Guidelines’ standards.

The ‘specific instance’ procedure – as the Guidelines’ complaint process is officially called – is focused on resolving disputes primarily through mediation and conciliation. The Final Statement issued by an NCP may include recommendations on the implementation of the Guidelines, as well as the NCP’s determination as to whether a breach of the Guidelines has occurred. However, the NCP process is a non-binding process so in cases where the company refuses to participate, or the parties cannot agree on the terms for mediation, or if mediation fails, the NCP may still issue its own Final Statement.