Workers dismissed by the quinine-producing company Pharmakina, S.A. in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) submitted a complaint to the Luxembourg NCP arguing that Pharmakina S.A. and its Luxembourg-incorporated holding company, Pharmeg S.A., had breached the OECD Guidelines Employment and Industrial Relations, Human Rights, and other chapters when it fired workers seeking to be paid a legal wage. According to the complaint, the law of the DRC requires workers to be paid at least $5 per day, a rate not paid by Pharmakina. When eight worker leaders at Pharmakina sought to mobilize all the workers to demand payment of $5 per day, the company boss at first agreed to meet with workers to discuss their demands, but then fired the eight workers. The workers filed a complaint to the Luxembourg NCP seeking mediation to help them secure compensation for their loss of work and address the underlying wage dispute. Their complaint also alleges that Pharmakina is allowing discharge from production to pollute nearby Lake Kivu, to the detriment of the health of workers and nearby communities, and that Pharmakina is engaged in corruption, including by making regular illegal payments to illegal rebel groups formerly involved in committing atrocities against people in the DRC.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
According to complainants, while the complaint to the Luxembourg NCP was underway, Pharmakina sought the arrest of one of the worker representatives. Pharmakina asked the Congolese Prosecutor to file charges against the worker, including for defamation in relation to filing the NCP complaint. The prosecutor did file charges, initially seeking the death penalty for the worker and later reducing the demand to one for life imprisonment. The Congolese court held in favor of the Prosecutor, but reduced the worker’s sentence to 4.5 years in prison and payment of two fines: $10,000 to the boss of Pharmakina in his personal capacity, and $10,000 to the company itself, for defamation. The worker is to be held in prison from 2019 to 2023.
The Luxembourg NCP rejected the complaint in November 2019, and so the complainants filed complaints against alleged Irish and American buyers of Pharmakina’s quinine on 9 October 2020.
On 13 October 2020, the Ireland NCP acknowledged receipt of the complaint, and in subsequent months it shared the complaint with Schweppes Holdings Ireland for comment.
As of May 2021, the Irish NCP held a meeting with the representatives of the European Refreshments and the Coca-Cola Company regarding the complaint against Schweppes Holdings Limited, their subsidiary. The initial assessment was released to both parties on 5 August 2021 for them to comment.
Finally, the initial assessment was published on 24 August 2021. The Irish NCP rejected the complaint, asserting the complainants had not provided sufficient evidence to link the company to the business enterprise (Pharmakina) and to the impacts alleged by the complainants.