Bangladesh: Reports of union busting & child labour in Perfetti Van Melle factory prompts campaign; Includes company response

Photo Credit: The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF)

In September 2019, The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) launched a campaign calling on Perfetti Van Melle - an Italian global manufacturer of confectionery and gum - to end child labour and union busting in Gazipur, Bangladesh. 

The campaign was launched following reports of Perfetti Van Melle management attempting to stop the PVM Union from registering at its Gazipur factory, and union members being beaten after submitting demands to Perfetti Van Melle that included an end to the use of child labour. According to IUF, approximately 25 children were found working in the factory as of August 2019.

In October 2019, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Perfetti Van Melle to respond to allegations of union busting and child labour. Perfetti Van Melle responded and said it had found no evidence of underage workers at the factory. It also stated that it supports the formation of a workers union in Bangladesh, has met with the union to communicate its support and negotiate union demands, and has arranged training sessions for both union members and management on the local labour law.

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Company response
11 October 2019

Response by Perfetti Van Melle

Author: Perfetti Van Melle

...We have critically reviewed all documentation of our own employees, as well as the documentation provided by third party agencies who supply contract employees to us, and have found no evidence of underage workers in our Bangladesh facility...

...When hiring permanent employees, we screen all candidates for – among other things – age, education and work experience. Additionally, any outside third party agency providing contract workers to Perfetti van Melle must adhere to these same standards, and must sign an agreement stating that they will not hire any underaged individuals...

...Our management has welcomed the union by hosting a...meeting with the union office bearers, during which we communicated our commitment to develop a constructive and mutually beneficial working relationship with the union....

...training sessions were also arranged...for both union members and Perfetti van Melle management staff to ensure that all parties understand their obligations as per local Labor Law. A number of negotiation meetings took place with the trade union to mitigate their demands as per the legal provisions of the country.

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Article
23 April 2019

Bangladesh: Unionists at Perfetti van Melle factory allege being subjected to abuse following their demands to end child labour

Author: The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF)

"Union members assaulted at Perfetti Van Melle Bangladesh after calling for an end to child labour", 23 April 2019

After a long fight for legal collective bargaining status at...Perfetti Van Melle's Bangladesh factory, PVM Union leaders and members have been the target of threats and physical assault.

Central to this...was the PVM Union's call for an end to the exploitation of child labour supplied by Perfetti Van Melle's third party labour and services provider Rahat Corporation. The union also called for permanent status for contract workers and in-sourcing of canteen services, both currently supplied by Rahat Corporation.

Two violent events followed these union demands, one in which 20 goons organized by Rahat Corporation entered the Gazipur factory...and proceeded to beat and threaten union members while Perfetti Van Melle management stood by...

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Article
15 April 2019

Bangladesh: Confectionery giant Perfetti Van Melle investigates after workers in supplier factory were attacked after forming a union

Author: Naimul Karim, Thomson Reuters Foundation

 "UPDATE 1-Dutch sweets giant probes 'attack' on Bangladesh factory workers", 12 April 2019

The Dutch sweets giant behind the Mentos and Alpenliebe brands has pledged to investigate after its workers in Bangladesh said they were attacked, just weeks after setting up a union...

...The new trade union’s general secretary Kamrul Hasan said about 20 unknown attackers wielding sticks entered a factory run by Perfetti Van Melle earlier this week and beat up workers...

...The union’s president Kamrul Hasan Palash said the company’s local managers had opposed the formation of a union for the factory’s 250 permanent workers...

...A spokeswoman for the company, which has its headquarters in the Netherlands, expressed regret over the incident and said it had taken steps to protect workers. “Securing the safety of our employees at work is our responsibility,”...“We are investigating the incident and we have taken measures to protect the safety of all employees in our factory.”...

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