Nissan rejects U.S. government offer to mediate dispute over allegations of systemic labor rights abuses at U.S. operations


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(Washington DC/Paris/Tokyo) Nissan Motor Company has refused a U.S. government offer of mediation to resolve a longstanding dispute with the United Auto Workers (UAW) and IndustriALL Global Union Federation over the company’s anti-union practices in the United States, which the unions claim violate Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

The State Department-based US National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines offered mediation in response to an April 2014 “specific instance” filed by the UAW and IndustriALL. The NCP’s action followed a review of the evidence submitted by the unions, including implied threats of plant closing and other forms of management interference with workers’ organizing efforts at the company’s Canton, Mississippi factory. These actions violate OECD Guidelines on workers’ freedom of association and trade union organizing rights. The NCP found that “the issues raised by UAW and IndustriALL are material and substantiated and merit further examination.”

The UAW and IndustriALL accepted the NCP’s offer of mediation and joined a preliminary information session in November with mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to learn about the mediation procedures. Nissan rejected the offer of mediation and refused to meet with mediators. As the NCP’s Final Statement says, “Nissan refused to participate in the mediation and in so doing it also declined to participate in an information session.” The NCP stated that it “regrets Nissan’s unwillingness to participate in the process.”

Nissan argued to the NCP that entering mediation over issues raised might violate US national labor law. In response, the NCP said that it “strongly disagrees and is not aware of any applicable law or procedures that would weigh against offering its good offices in this case . . . The U.S. NCP works to facilitate a dispute resolution that is mutually drafted/composed and accepted by the parties and that does not violate applicable law.”

In reference to assertions by Nissan that the unions violated OECD confidentiality rules in connection with the case, the NCP said flatly “there was no breach of confidentiality . . . public reference to the filing of the specific Instance is not inconsistent with [confidentiality] provisions.”

The U.S. government is recommending that Nissan should “conduct a corporate-wide labor rights review” of its adherence to the OECD Guidelines and that Nissan should consider other forms of mediation to resolve the issues raised in the OECD case.

The U.S. NCP also noted that it had shared information on the case with the NCPs of Japan, France, and the Netherlands and that “those NCPs remain available to offer assistance to the parties.” Nissan is a Japanese corporation, but France-based Renault owns 43.4 percent of Nissan and the Renault-Nissan Alliance is incorporated in the Netherlands. Following the U.S. NCP’s Final Statement, the UAW and IndustriALL are now considering moves to those forums in an effort to resolve the dispute.

“It is clear Nissan behaves one way in some parts of the world but is grossly exploiting workers in the United States. The fact that the company continues to ignore the severity of the situation and its refusal to end these abuses or engage in dialogue that could result in a positive step forward for both workers and the company is absolutely unreasonable. ” said UAW President Dennis Williams.

Jyrki Raina, head of IndustriALL which represents 50 million workers globally including 150,000 Nissan workers and a majority of Renault autoworkers worldwide expressed grave disappointment by the news.

“UAW and IndustriALL affiliates have repeatedly made attempts to meet with Nissan North America to resolve this issue. Nissan’s unwillingness to engage in the OECD process sends a very worrisome message to its partners at Renault and Daimler as well as the global investment community.” Jyrki said adding, “We have known Nissan for its respect of workers’ rights elsewhere in the world, but in the US we have heard evidence of intimidation and exploitation of its workers and their communities. This is a troubling step backwards for Nissan.”

Jyrki led a delegation of16 senior ranking union leaders from six countries who took part in a fact finding mission to Canton, Mississippi in October 2014. The mission corroborated the claims of intimidation and other labor rights abuses highlighted in the OECD case, and heard testimony from workers about ongoing management interference with freedom of association.

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