Dutch National Contact Point finds Veon failed to follow OECD guidelines regarding workers' rights in Bangladesh; incl. company response

On 11?February 11 2020, the Dutch National Contact Point (NCP) published its Final Statement regarding the Specific Instance of UNI Global Union versus VEON. The complaint alleged that Banglalink,?a subsidiary of Dutch-headquartered telecoms company VEON, failed to respect workers' freedom of association rights in Bangladesh.?

In its final statement, the Dutch NCP found that?Veon "is not acting in line with what can be expected from it under the OECD Guidelines" with regard to its operations in Bangladesh.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Veon to comment on the final statement, including allegations that the company was not willing to enter into a dialogue in the framework of the NCP procedure. Their response is available below.

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Company response
11 March 2020

Response by Veon

Author: Veon

[full response attached]

...With regards to the Final Statement issued by the Dutch National Contact Point (NCP) about our operating company in Bangladesh, we note that the NCP found no wrongdoing by VEON or our operating company in Bangladesh. We further note that the NCP’s recommendations need to be considered within the context of prevailing Bangladeshi law. VEON is currently studying the findings and assessing next steps.?

In Bangladesh, VEON complies with local laws and regulations and expects the same from employees and third parties. Our employees in the country are encouraged to join ongoing engagement forums with each other and management, and the local company takes pride in maintaining a workplace culture of openness and respect for human rights.?

VEON’s broader continued commitment to human rights is demonstrated throughout our Group’s business principles and policies. Human rights issues are integral aspects of both the Group Code of Conduct and Business Partner Code of Conduct, which all suppliers are required to comply with in order to work with our companies. In parallel, the Group Health and Safety Policy provides guidelines to maintain a safe and effective working environment for all VEON employees and third parties.?

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12 February 2020

After a four-year struggle, workers at VEON’s Bangladeshi subsidiary win recognition for their union

Author: UNI Global Union

They faced intimidation, firings, and numerous other obstacles to organizing, but workers at Banglalink, a subsidiary of Amsterdam-based telecoms company VEON, won the registration for their union from the Bangladeshi government on Monday.

The legal registration came one day before the Dutch National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD concluded that?VEON and its subsidiary failed to follow the OECD Guidelines in Bangladesh.

The NCP’s statement, released 11 February, was sparked by a complaint made by UNI Global union in 2016. UNI Global Union’s complaint alleged that the company harassed workers to suppress organizing with the Banglalink Employees Union (BLEU). ?Despite the difficult conditions, more than 30 per cent?of the workers indicated support for the union, the threshold required under Bangladeshi law.? But registration was withheld based upon the company’s unproven claim that there was a “mismatch” in the signatures, holding up registration for 4 years. In its decision, the NCP recommended several significant labour reforms to bring the company in compliance with the guidelines and promote freedom of association.

Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI, said [...] "the Dutch NCP should be commended for dedicating extensive time and research to this case. Its job was made even harder by the fact that VEON became the first Dutch company to refuse mediation, a key part of the OECD process." ...

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11 February 2020

Final Statement notification UNI Global Union vs. VEON

Author: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Dutch National Contact Point (NCP) published the Final Statement of the Specific Instance of UNI Global Union versus VEON, on February 11, 2020.

The notification is regarding workers’ freedom of association at Banglalink Digital Communications Ltd. in Bangladesh.

On February 6, 2018 , the Initial Assessment was published. VEON has not accepted the NCP’s good offices to facilitate a dialogue between the parties on the issues raised.

The NCP’s Final Statement describes the process and steps taken by the NCP as well as the conclusions and recommendations of the NCP.

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