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Shell AGM fails to address union concerns

IndustriALL submitted questions to Shell ahead of its closed, online AGM on 19 May. Shell answered the questions in an online shareholder’s engagement meeting on 13 May, which was attended by IndustriALL energy director Diana Junquera Curiel.

IndustriALL submitted a question about the health and safety situation of contractors in Nigeria, after conducting extensive research and finding a number of case studies from the families of workers who have lost their lives or become disabled.

Shell AGM fails to address union concerns

The children of a deceased Shell contract worker, visited by IndustriALL in 2018

In response, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said that Shell “complies with local laws”, and endeavours to make “continuous performance improvements”. Contractors are “independent corporate entities”, however Shell “ensures” they comply with local law while “continually looking for ways to review” contractors. Shell denied allegations made in the question while failing to address the substance.

Shell addressed all questions in this manner. When IndustriALL raised issues of the violation of trade union and human rights in Nigeria, which are very well documented, Van Beurden replied that all allegations had been thoroughly investigated and found to be “fully unsubstantiated.” However, Shell did not consult with unions in the course of its investigations.

Junquera asked, once again, whether Shell would be willing to meet with IndustriALL so that these issues could be satisfactorily addressed. Van Beurden replied that Shell values its relations with unions, but that these are “most effective at the local level” due to country specific conditions. He made no commitment to meeting with IndustriALL.

This response is not unexpected: Shell has consistently failed to address union concerns. However, IndustriALL is mandated by its affiliated unions, who represent Shell workers globally, to seek global dialogue, and will continue to do so.

IndustriALL raised additional questions about Shell’s emissions targets and accordance with the Paris Agreement, and plans for a Just Transition for workers. Shell responded by referring to their Climate Change and Energy Transition document.

While IndustriALL commends Shell for addressing Just Transition explicitly, a number of concerns remain. The document fails to recognize the global labour movement and does not mention trade unions, fails to make firm commitments, and contains little detail about what the programme would consist of. 

“I don’t understand why Shell refuses to meet with us. What are they afraid of?” asked Junquera.

“Shell engages with many critical organizations, including a number of NGOs, who do not represent Shell stakeholders. IndustriALL Global Union represents Shell workers worldwide. We have a mandate from those workers to initiate dialogue worldwide.”

“Shell refuses. Shell claims that it is ‘more efficient’ to work with unions at local level only. But Shell’s attempts to divide workers is exactly why our unions want global dialogue.”

The full transcript of the call, including IndustriALL’s questions and Shell’s responses, is available here.


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