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ATUMA & former employees v. Unilever

Case overview

Date filed 12 April 2018
Current status Pendiente
Issue Non-payment of severance for former Unilever workers in DRC
Summary of the case On 12 April 2018, a group of former workers of Unilever-Marsavco in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) filed a complaint with the Dutch NCP and UK NCP. On 26 April 2016, the Dutch NCP accepted the complaint for further consideration. The Dutch NCP will lead review of the case, working in coordination with the UK NCP.

The complaint by ATUMA (Association des Ex-Travailleurs Unilever Marsavco/PHC au Congo) alleges that in 2001, Unilever-Marsavco unjustifiably dismissed 802 employees and then failed to provide them a complete legal severance package, including full final salary and bonus as well as allowances for housing, transportation, food, and dependents, and other benefits. In 2002, 686 of the workers raised a complaint with the Congolese General Inspector for Labour to recover their unpaid severance packages. The complaint was brought to the attention of Congolese authorities at various levels (Judiciary, ministries, and the Office of the President of the Republic). Since the early 2000s, ATUMA asserts that several judicial and administrative rulings have supported the workers’ claim for compensation.

According to ATUMA, in order to settle the dispute, Unilever PLC has made several final transfers of tens of millions of dollars to Unilever-Marsavco over the past decade for the compensation of the group of former workers. ATUMA asserts that Unilever has failed to monitor the financial transactions to ensure the monies are actually paid to workers. As a result, none have been, possibly due to misappropriation through corruption related to the Rawji family. The money owed to workers is estimated by the DRC Labour Inspectorate and courts to total more than $45 million USD.

ATUMA’s complaint asserts that Unilever has violated several provisions of the OECD Guidelines, local laws in the DRC, and its own labour agreement and social charter, in connection with this situation. ATUMA calls for Unilever to investigate the situation and pay compensation to workers again, this time ensuring payments actually reach those to whom they are due. ATUMA calls for the CEO of Unilever to directly engage in the NCP negotiation, as ATUMA asserts he has done so in other disputes with former employees in other countries, to help the parties achieve a fair outcome.
Developments/Outcome
Relevant OECD Guidelines
Case keywords

NCP Information

NCP name National Contact Point Netherlands
NCP address Bezuidenhoutesweg 67 2594 AC The Hague, Netherlands
NCP website http://www.oesorichtlijnen.nl/
Other NCPs involved

Complainant

Company Information

Company responsible Unilever PLC
Company address
London
United Kingdom
Company website
Company in violation Unilever
Country of operations Congo, The Democratic Republic of the
Other companies involved

Timeline of developments

Date Actor Action Description Document
26 April 2018 National Contact Point Netherlands Dutch NCP accepts case  
12 April 2018 Association des ex-Travailleurs Unilever Marsavco-PHC presentar Case filed with Dutch and UK NCPs download pdf (56Kb)  
12 April 2018 Association des ex-Travailleurs Unilever Marsavco-PHC presentar Note accompanying complaint ATUMA v. Unilever download pdf (32Kb)  

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