The United Nations (UN) on the eve of the new millennium in 1999 through its Secretary General Kofi Annan suggested the idea of a Global Compact, which would involve major international companies signing on to some universal principles of responsible business behaviour.
Business leaders, civil society and the UN would come together to advance the cause of ethical business conduct.
According to the UN the concept of the Global Compact is defined as, “the necessity for joint volunteer actions that would help raise the responsible civil attitude of companies to a higher level” and further it is expected that, “the private sector would join with other social forces in a common effort to establish a more stable world economy with a human face”. Very commendable goals I must admit.
Rusal’s management has signed on to the vision outlined in the Global Compact and pledged to apply these principles of the United Nations not as a matter of fashion but as a management task, their words not mine.
Rusal’s management produced a report to, “demonstrate their adherence to the principles of the United Nations Global Compact and their eagerness to assume the responsibility for promoting increased transparency and also to coordinate the company’s interests with the interests of society”.
There are 10 principles of the UN Global Compact listed as follows:
1. Businesses should support and respect the
protection of internationally proclaimed
human rights; and
2. Make sure that they are not complicit in
human rights abuses.
3. Businesses should uphold the freedom of
association and the effective recognition
of the right to collective bargaining;
4. The elimination of all forms of forced and
5. The effective abolition of child labour; and
6. The elimination of discrimination in respect
of employment and occupation.
7. Businesses should support a precautionary
approach to environmental challenges;
8. Undertake initiatives to promote greater
environmental responsibility; and
9. Encourage the development and diffusion
of environmentally friendly technologies.
10. Businesses should work against all forms
of corruption, including extortion and bribery.
Of particular interest in the Guyanese context is number three under the heading Labour Standards. It is clear that Rusal when dealing with the Berbice Bauxite workers did not take the Global Compact into consideration even against the background of being given a free pass to break Guyana’s laws by this PPP/C Government.
This article seeks to remind Rusal as well as the United Nations of their obligations to agreements whether voluntary or obligatory. There must be repercussions for breaches to these international commitments.
Clearly there are two faces of Rusal one for the international arena where financing is available and investors are increasingly examining the social behaviour of companies prior to investing in them and the other a very rough uncompromising and clearly unlawful with our Government’s assistance.
Threatening workers and then dismissing 57 without recourse in November 2009 is clearly a move more suited to a “gangster run enterprise” than a company rubbing shoulders with the United Nations in a Global Compact.
Let it once again be clearly stated that the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc, is in breach of the Laws of Guyana – Trade Union recognition Act 98:07 Section 23(1) , 26(1), (2), and (3) as well as 98;01 Section 4(1) and several International Labour Organisation’s conventions.
The UN has often been accused of being a toothless organisation, maybe the verdict is still out in this regard. We shall see if dentures have been acquired in recent times.
Everall Franklin, MP
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