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Shell unable to answer worker questions at AGM

IndustriALL Global Union’s assistant general secretary, Kemal Özkan, and trade union leaders from Brazil, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Uganda raised questions during the AGM on workers’ rights violations at Shell operations concerning precarious work, unequal pay, poverty wages, union busting and health and safety.

The action is part of IndustriALL’s campaign to get Shell to live up to its stated commitments to respect the rights of its direct employees and workers’ in its supply chains.

Shell chairman Charles Holliday said these issues should be addressed locally and he directed the trade union leaders to a helpdesk in the foyer of the Circustheater where the AGM was taking place. However, it turned out there was no one there. 

Kemal Özkan went back into the AGM, pointed out there was nobody at the help desk and urged Shell to meet IndustriALL and its affiliates. Shell then arranged for several staff to take detailed notes of violations reported by IndustriALL trade unions, which represent thousands of workers at Shell operations. The Shell chairman later came out to speak personally to IndustriALL and trade union leaders. 

Oil and gas giant, Shell, has repeatedly said it will not deal with unions on a global level. However, Kemal Özkan told the chairman:

“We are not expecting to replace any local level negotiation, on the contrary we are seeking an environment where local level negotiation and dialogue continues…Issues are not being addressed on the ground, which is why we are here. When there is no response to dialogue we need to bring it to the shareholders’ meeting.” 

IndustriALL also brought up problems with contracting out and violations of the supplier code with the chairman.

Earlier in the morning, IndustriALL affiliates representing workers at Shell operations in 12 countries staged a demonstration outside the AGM calling for a halt to precarious work at Shell.  Contractors outnumber permanent workers two to one at the company and do the most dangerous jobs. 

IndustriALL and affiliated trade unions from Belgium, Brazil, Iraq, Morocco, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda and USA gathered in The Hague for the Shell Global Union Network meeting that began after the AGM on 22 May and continued the next day.  

IndustriALL’s energy director, Diana Junquera Curiel, gave an overview of the latest developments in the global oil and gas industry as well as results of a recent survey of Shell operations. 

The survey of 25 worksites, representing more than 20,000 permanent and precarious workers, showed that contract work is increasing and contract workers have less pay and worse working conditions. 

Williams Akporeha, President of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers said that Nigeria was the “headquarters of precarious work”. All of Shell’s operations in Nigeria are carried out by contract workers. 

In a discussion on health and safety, Hasan Jumaah Saddawi from the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions said Shell workers in Iraq are working in polluted and contaminated sites and have high risk of cancers and infertility. He called for Shell to take responsibility for Iraqi workers’ health (who are treated less preferably than the foreign workers) and to help with the clean up in the contaminated areas. 

IndustriALL and the Shell Global Union Network also support Brazilian affiliate FERAESP in demanding that trade union leaders fired by Shell joint venture Raizen for their union membership are reinstated. 

“The global union network at Shell has re-committed itself to the campaign. We will continue to reach out to Shell’s stakeholders and expose the truth about how Shell abuses its workforce. We will escalate these efforts until Shell lives up to its commitments to respect workers’ rights and addresses our concerns about the abuse of precarious workers,” asserted Kemal Özkan.

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