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article imagePepsiCo accused of human rights violations

By Tim Sandle     May 5, 2016 in Business
Global food giant PepsiCo has been accused of continuing human rights violations and anti-trade union practices in relation to factories in the Indian state of West Bengal.
The accusation has been made by International Union of Food workers (IUF). The union alleges that the soft drink and snack foods manufacturer has, since 2013, blocked attempts by workers at its food factory to form a trade union.
Furthermore, the union states that a group of workers have become unemployed directly as a consequence of their attempt to form a union. Here, the union reports, there were “mass dismissals after workers formed a union at PepsiCo snack foods warehouses in West Bengal.”
According to the Ethical Consumer website, in June 2013 162 PepsiCo workers, from a total workforce of 170, were fired from a factory that exclusively makes products for PepsiCo. The dismissals were in relation to the workers seeking to join a union.
The issue relates to a supplier to PepsiCo rather than to the company directly (the supplier is Radhakrishna Foodland Pvt. Ltd.) However, PepsiCo has a code of conduct in place relating to its suppliers. This covers international human rights standards, including the right to free association in the form of a trade union.
The supplier company has also engaged in practices designed to put workers at a disadvantage in relation to the balance of power between labour and capital. Here already precarious one-year contracts have been systematically replaced with contracts lasting for only three months.
The campaign organization LabourStart states that “PepsiCo's refusal to recognize and to remedy ongoing human rights violations makes it complicit in human rights abuses - complicity that leaves their supplier code and their claimed dedication to human rights in tatters.”
In light of this, LabourStart has begun a petition designed to apply pressure on PepsiCo so that a trade union can be established at the factory (Kolkata production plant.)
Attempts under the U.S. government's National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises to remedy the situation, including meetings between the IUF and PepsiCo, have not been successful.
PepsiCo does not support the allegations. In response, PepsiCo has said: “PepsiCo takes human rights issues very seriously and immediately conducted a thorough investigation upon learning of the allegations. Our investigation has found no evidence of human rights violations.”
The company added: “The local Assistant Labour Commissioner’s office also conducted its own independent investigation and found that the RKFL facility was in compliance with all applicable labour laws. It is our understanding that RKFL is having productive and substantive talks with the local union, INTUC, in the hopes of reaching an appropriate resolution to any outstanding issues.”
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