Bayer suppliers in India are alleged to have violated the OECD Guidelines chapter on employment and industrial relations by using child labour.
The case is based on a 2003 study which found that cottonseed farms, largely in South India, employ children in large numbers, predominantly girls between 6 and 14 years of age. Many of them work in bonded labour. Because the use of large quantities of pesticides their health conditions are negatively affected all the time. The study found that around 2,000 children were working for suppliers of Proagro, a subsidiary of the German company Bayer AG. Bayer has failed to address these concerns, which form the basis of the complaint.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
- Version 2000 Chapter II
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.10
- Version 2000 Chapter IV
- Version 2000 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.1 Subparagraph IV.1.B
On October 26, 2004, Bayer responded to the NGO complaint in a letter to the NCP that the complaint was unfounded. After an exchange of letters and having received comprehensive comments by both parties, the German NCP invited all parties to a meeting. Bayer objected to the participation of one of the NGO participants and thus refused to participate. Instead, Bayer stated that it had already taken constructive and concrete steps to solve the problems raised. Instead of a joint meeting, the NCP held separate meetings in which Bayer explained its plan on how to face the problem. The complainants felt that having separate meetings with the complainant and the company compromised the NCP’s (supposed) independent/objective nature because it put the NCP into the role of having to present the views and arguments of the company to the NGOs.
In December 2005, the complainants sent a letter to Bayer with questions regarding the company’s action plan. Despite a promise to do so, Bayer failed to respond. Independent research revealed that there were still 450-500 children working in the fields in the 2005/06 season producing for ProAgro/Bayer. After additional (separate) meetings in 2006 and 2007, the results of independent research indicating structural problems in Bayer’s implementation of the action plan were handed over, along with an analysis by the complainants, to the NCP in June 2007 for consideration.
In August 2007, the NCP concluded the complaint with a final statement. The complainants do not feel that the statement appropriately reflects their position. In order to further assess the outcome of the case, the complainants pledged to continue to monitor the situation on the ground and see how/whether the German NCP assumes the monitoring role that is foreseen in the final statement.