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Germany – DHL accused of labour right violations and underpaying temporary staff

09 May 2012

Today global trade unions will unveil a report into how Deutsche Post-owned DHL allegedly treats its workers outside of Europe, launching a white paper which is said to expose a “shameful track record of union avoidance outside of Europe and overuse of temporary or agency workers.”

A spokesperson at DHL Germany this morning said to Staffing Industry Analysts that the company was aware of these “severe” accusations. But she admitted that the majority of these cases either lie well in the past and have been concluded or are exceptions. She confirmed that DHL will have to analyse the content of the white paper before giving specific details on the cases involved. 

Nonetheless, the unions have been harsh in their criticism: “We find it unbelievable that a company of Deutsche Post DHL’s size and aspirations can find itself unable to put a figure to the number of agency workers it uses, even though many of them are on poverty wages and are being put at risk of injury and death. We find it unacceptable that DHL workers have suffered intimidation, bullying and worse, and that the company can’t even get its facts straight on the use of lie detectors against staff.”

The research carried out by UNI Global Union and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) allegedly “shows widespread and systematic abuses regarding freedom of association and precarious work.” It claims that subcontracted workers have been paid “substantially less” than permanent workers in some countries outside of Europe. The unions also accuse DHL of using lie detector tests on some of its staff in Colombia, Costa Rica and South Africa and of breaking health and safety violations, such as in the US.

But a spokesperson at DHL said to Staffing Industry Analysts that the firm has an international code of conduct which it continually abides by and which ensures the firm’s ethical behaviour towards its staff. She also said that DHL was in a constant dialogue with unions and fully respects human rights in all countries the firm operates in. She said the firm valued all its employees and, as a company of this size, takes responsibility towards its employees seriously while aiming to be a role model for the industry.

DHL is one of the most global of international companies providing its services in over 230 territories worldwide.

German unions have been actively campaigning against the use of temporary agency work in recent months as part of their lobbying to establish equal pay for temporary workers.

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