In October 2015 a group of former employees of Bralima, a daughter company of Heineken in the Democratic Republic of Congo, filed a complaint with the Dutch NCP for a series of allegedly unfair and unlawful dismissals since 2000. The complainants criticise Bralima of massive and abusive retrenchment of the workers and a miscalculation and non-payment of the final settlement for some of the workers. The complainants further allege that Bralima decided to collaborate with the rebel movement RCD-GOMA, instead of getting proper authorisation from the DRCs ministry of Labour to proceed with massive retrenchment for economic reasons.
The complainants contend that Heinekens headquarters in the Netherlands at the time of the dismissals closely cooperated with Bralima and therefore had or ought to have had knowledge of the situation described. Heineken could and should have used its influence to prevent further damage for the former employees. Complainants therefore also call on Heineken to take its responsibility and provide adequate compensation to the workers and their families who have suffered as result of the unfair dismissals.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
- Version 2000 Chapter I
- Version 2000 Chapter I Paragraph I.1
- Version 2000 Chapter I Paragraph I.2
- Version 2000 Chapter II
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.1
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.10
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.11
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.2
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.5
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.6
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.9
- Version 2000 Chapter IV
- Version 2000 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.6
- Version 2000 Chapter VI
- Version 2000 Chapter VI Paragraph VI.6
The Dutch NCP confirmed receipt of the complaint. After an initial meeting by Heineken was held in the DRC, the NCP accepted the specific instance on 28 June 2016. In the specific instance, the Dutch NCP stated that the complaint merited further consideration. The NCP also said that mediated dialogue between the parties may help clarify responsibility of Bralima towards it employees under the 2000 version of the Guidelines and that that it may also help clarify the independent responsibility under the Guidelines of Heineken N.V. towards its (around 95%) subsidiary Bralima, which was operating in the DRC between 1999-2003.
Both parties have agreed to undergo mediation and an independent mediator was agreed upon by the parties. Setting precedent, the Dutch NCP offered to hold mediation at a location convenient for the complainants, while also helping to cover their travel expenses enabling them to participate. Two formal mediation meetings were held, in addition to other meetings around the content of the complaint. The first mediation meeting was held at the Dutch Embassy in Kampala, Uganda in January 2017, in which an agreement on the next steps was established and the second mediation meeting was held at the Dutch Embassy in Paris, France in June 2017. In addition, Heineken also engaged in expert in Congolese labour law, who was approved by the NCP, and met with the former employees on two occasions, in order to listen to the complainant’s’ concerns.
On 18 August 2017, the Dutch NCP issued its Final Statement announcing that the two parties had reached a positive agreement that was satisfactory to both parties, but that the parties wished to keep the content of the agreement confidential. However, according to a news story published on the same day by Olivier van Beemen in NRC.NL entitled “Heineken betaalt Congolezen na klacht mensenrechtenschending”, a payment of €1.1 million was provided to the former employees by Heineken. The monetary compensation that resulted from this NCP complaint sets historic precedent.
The Final Statement also provides further forward looking recommendations for Heineken, in terms of monitoring and evaluating the handling of current or former employee’ complaints, while also continuing to monitor and improve its business conduct code and actively disseminate the principles throughout the Heineken Group. Finally, the Dutch NCP recommends that an evaluation be conducted in the summer of 2018.