COMILOG lawsuit (re Gabon, filed in France)
Snapshot: On 5 September 1991, a train from Gabonese Ougooué Mining Company (COMILOG) transporting manganese from Gabon collided with a passenger train in Congo Brazzaville. Following this accident, the company filed for bankruptcy and workers were told that they would receive a severance . In 2003, COMILOG agreed to give over €1 million to the Congolese Treasury with, in exchange, former workers giving up on their right to judicial remedy. In 2008, more than 800 former COMILOG workers brought a complaint before a French employment tribunal. In 2015, the French Court ruled COMILOG should compensate the employees for violating their employment contracts in 1991.
Proceedings in France
On 5 September 1991, a train from Gabonese Ougooué Mining Company (COMILOG) transporting manganese from Gabon collided with a passenger train in Congo Brazzaville. More than 100 people died. Following this accident, the company stopped the transport of raw materials by train and filed for bankruptcy. COMILOG laid off 955 workers without notice or compensation. Workers were told that they would receive their severance in instalments over five years, starting in 1993. However, they claim they never received any severance.
In July 2003, COMILOG and the Governments of Congo and Gabon reached an agreement regarding the 1991 train accident. COMILOG agreed to give over €1 million to the Congolese Treasury as compensation for the dismissed workers. The dismissed workers claim that they were not consulted regarding this agreement and that they never received the money.
In 2008, after the French group ERAMET had become a majority owner of COMILOG, more than 800 former COMILOG workers brought a complaint before a French employment tribunal. The workers allege that the dismissal was unfair and request €65 million as compensation. In 2011, the Paris Employment Tribunal dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. The workers appealed, and on 20 June 2013, the Paris Court of Appeal ruled that French courts have jurisdiction to hear the case against COMILOG France and COMILOG International. NGOs see this decision as important for establishing a basis for the responsibility of French companies for their conduct and their subsidiaries' actions abroad. The merits of the case were heard in June 2014. On 28 January 2015, the highest court ruled that France was the appropriate jurisdiction to hear the case. On 10 September 2015, the Paris Court of Appeal ruled that COMILOG should compensate workers for breaching their employment contracts in 1992.
[FR]« Comilog - Eramet : Justice, libre entreprise et compétitivité », Jean-Baptiste Jacquin, Le Monde (France), 11 septembre 2015
- [FR] « La justice française accorde une "avancée" pour les anciens salariés de la Comilog », AFP, 20 juin 2013
- [FR] « Gabon : Le procès de la COMILOG reporté à 2009 », GabonEco, 13 octobre 2008
- [FR] « Cheminots congolais, la justice au bout du tunnel », Pascal Ceaux, L’Express (France), 28 août 2008
- Sherpa :
- [FR] « Affaire COMILOG : Victoire pour les 857 travailleurs victimes d'un déni de justice », 10 septembre 2015
- « COMILOG: 20 years for victims' voices to be heard and it's still a matter of uncertainty », 30 Jan 2015
- [FR] « L’affaire COMILOG : obtenir enfin justice pour 800 travailleurs », 11 avril 2013