DHL in the firing line over escalating rights abuses – questions pile up about logistics giant

28 May 2013

Deutsche Post DHL’s ‘record of shame’ will be exposed before its annual general meeting in Frankfurt tomorrow. The logistics giant has repeatedly failed to answer a growing catalogue of workers’ rights abuses, including unfair dismissals and backing fake unions across its global network. Its behaviour risks alienating shareholders and clients.

UNI Global Union and the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation), which between them represent 20 million union members, will lead the charges against the company, both inside and outside the AGM.

The two organisations have repeatedly held the company to account over abuses of workers’ rights in countries where it operates and which, they say, it would never dare commit in Germany. They have shown how it has illegally fired workers in Turkey and used lie detectors against staff in Colombia, Panama and South Africa; and relied on agency workers to work on lower wages and with no job security in the UK, Malaysia, Indonesia and India. One DHL company was even fined after staffing a US factory with students who thought they were on a cultural exchange.

These concerns will be raised at a press conference to be held tomorrow, 29 May from 08:30  to 09:30 at the Bigfood Höchst café  at Silostraße 91, 65929 Frankfurt Höchst. This is opposite the  Jahrhunderthalle ( where the AGM is taking place. Speakers will include: unfairly dismissed DHL Turkey employee Aysel Simsek; Tiny Hobbs, ver.di district chair for Department 10 (postal services); Ingo Marowsky, ITF global head – supply chain and logistics; Alan Tate, UNI campaigns director; and Gurel Yilmaz, general secretary of the Tumtis union. Please let know by email if you will be attending the press conference

Ingo Marowsky, ITF global head – supply chain and logistics, explained: “The questions are piling up for DHL and this AGM is just one of the places where they’ll be asked. Questions such as what’s happening in Turkey? How can you allow your management there to sack workers who have chosen to join a trade union? How is it acceptable for you to ignore them and sponsor a rival union whose only DHL members are those reportedly forced to join by managers? And there are more questions that shareholders, investors and customers want answered too, about how all this can be reconciled with DHL’s corporate responsibility policies and claimed observance of the UN Global Compact. And why the company is in court in Turkey and has been hauled up in front of the OECD.”

He concluded: “The facts are there for all to see. We – unlike DHL – have scrupulously investigated what’s going on. We have commissioned independent research and shared and published it.  Sadly the company has continued to hide behind commercial confidentiality and never-revealed ‘audits’, or claims that it would be ‘inappropriate to make any further comment about the court cases’.”

Alan Tate, UNI campaigns director, stated: “DHL’s tactics in Turkey are unlawful under Turkish labour law – and some of them may also violate its criminal code – and violations of ILO (International Labour Organization) conventions and other international standards on freedom of association.”

He continued: “The company’s defence of its use of a ‘yellow’ (fake) union is risible. According to the official statistics from the Turkish Ministry of Labour released in January 2013 – when DHL were proclaiming it as a viable choice – this bogus ‘union’ had only 26 members in the entire country. Its creation is a cynical ploy. The ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) has expressed its concern to us over this.”

Concerns about DP-DHL’s behaviour in some of the countries in which it operates will be raised inside the AGM as well as outside – where protestors from the ver.di union and Turkish community groups will also be highlighting these issues. Among the protestors will be Aysel Simsek, one of the unfairly sacked Turkish workers, and her daughter Ipek. She will be handing out the following leaflet:

A request for DHL shareholders
My name is Aysel Simsek and this is my daughter Ipek. I was employed by DHL in Turkey for 4 years as a packaging and pricing worker at the Kirac site. I loved my job and was proud of it, but on the 4th February 2013, I was dismissed. I believe this was done because I stood up for the basic human right of belonging to a trade union.

Since April 2011, 35 other members of our trade union, Tumtis have been dismissed in a similar way. All 35 had one thing in common, they were trying to organise the union of their choice in the workplace. We have been involved in peaceful picket lines for over 300 days.

Like you, we want to see DHL grow and prosper in Turkey and worldwide in an ethical way, so we would like you as shareholders to ask Frank Appel why DHL is attempting to destroy the legitimate union in Turkey and has fired 36 workers who were trying to form a union?

Indeed, Turkey is not the only country where DHL’s commitment to the freedom of association to belong to a trade union and workers rights is wavering…

Did you know that…
•    In Turkey, all of the dismissals taken to court were found illegal and four cases specifically stated the workers were illegally dismissed for their trade union activities?
•    DHL has used lie detectors against staff in Colombia, Panama and South Africa?
•    DHL has relied on agency workers to work on lower wages and with no job security in the UK, Malaysia, Indonesia and India?
•    One DHL company was even fined after staffing a US factory with students who thought they were on a cultural exchange.
All of us want to see DHL perform to its best across the world, but by denying the essential right to freedom of association to join a union, the company risks actions that are disruptive to its image in the eyes in the customers and the public. So far its actions have resulted in:
•    In November 2012 a complaint being lodged to the German government (Ministry for Economics) alleges that Deutsche Post DHL violated international standards for multinational enterprises (OECD, see DHL CSR report page 34).
•    Deutsche Post DHL has been downgraded by a number of investment advisors as a result of allegations that it continues to violate labour rights in many countries.
•    A number of DHL clients expressing concerns about DHL’s labour rights record in countries like Turkey and Colombia.
•    Deutsche Post DHL’s reputation as an ethical and responsible company continues to suffer as a major media outlet in Germany exposes its anti-union behaviour in Turkey and around the world.

The ITF and UNI, working with ILRF (International Labor Rights Forum) and SumOfUs have drawn these matters to the attention of major DHL customers, including: Adidas, Ann Taylor Stores Corp, Apple, Arcadia Group, Astra Zeneca, C&A, Fast Retailing, H & M, Hugo Boss, Ikea, Johnson and Johnson, Marks and Spencer, Merck Sharp Dohme, and Tom Tailor. These and others have gone on to raise these concerns directly with DHL.

For more details please contact:
ITF (London, England). Sam Dawson, ITF press and editorial manager. Tel: +44 (0)20 7940 9260. Email:
UNI (Nyon, Switzerland). Richard Elliott, UNI Global Union director of communications. Tel:  +41 22 365 21 30. Email:
Ver.di (Frankfurt, Germany). Ute Fritzel, ver.di press officer. Tel: + 49 69 2569 1110. Mob: +49 (0)170 814 25 32. Email: