Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

You are here: Home / Base de données de cas / ATUMA & former employees v. Unilever

ATUMA & former employees v. Unilever

Case overview

Date filed 12 April 2018
Current status Pending
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 After receiving the complaint, the Dutch NCP engaged in dialogue with both parties. On 26 April 2020, more than a year after the complaint's filing, the NCP accepted the complaint for good offices. According to its initial assessment, the NCP will assess if and to what extent Unilever has responsiblity regarding the dismissal process and possible unsatisfactory outcomes for workers concerned when Marsavco was still fully owned by Unilever. The NCP will also assess whether Unilever retains since the transfer in 2002 a supply chain responsiblity that requires Unilever to encourage Marsavco to act with due diligence and corporate responsibility over the dispute. The assessment noted that, to date, Marsavco and Unilever have a business relationship.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
Case keywords

NCP Information

NCP name National Contact Point Netherlands
NCP address The Hague, Netherlands
NCP website
Other NCPs involved


Company Information

Company responsible Unilever PLC
Company address
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 2020 National Contact Point Netherlands initial assessment Dutch NCP issues initial assessment accepting case download pdf (89Kb)  
12 April 2018 Association des ex-Travailleurs Unilever Marsavco-PHC file Case filed with Dutch and UK NCPs download pdf (56Kb)  
12 April 2018 Association des ex-Travailleurs Unilever Marsavco-PHC file Note accompanying complaint ATUMA v. Unilever download pdf (32Kb)  

Personal tools

OECD Watch is hosted by