Employment and Workplace Issues

Fraud Whistleblower Wins Dismissal Lawsuit

The Los Angeles Times reports that Bank of America (BofA) has been found to have wrongfully dismissed an internal investigator who uncovered “widespread and pervasive wire, mail and bank fraud” at Countrywide Financial Corp after BofA acquired the firm in July 2008. The US Department of Labor reportedly found that the employee should have been protected from dismissal under whistleblower laws, ordering BofA to reinstate the employee and pay more than US$930,000 in back pay, compensation and costs.
Los Angeles Times: Feds: BofA improperly fired employee who exposed Countrywide fraud (14 September 2011) 
(Source: Los Angeles Times)

Poisoned Workers Call on New Apple CEO for CSR

Hong Kong based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) is supporting poisoned Apple supplier workers’ demands for safety reform and compensation from new Apple CEO, Tim Cook. According to SACOM, approximately 200 workers from Apple touch screen supplier Wintek, based in Suzhou, China, suffered nerve damage after widespread n-hexane poisoning in 2009.

Former employee Jia Jing-chuan, who was forced to resign because of his injuries, reportedly said that “Steve Jobs was indifferent to our poisoning and evaded his responsibility” and that “[t]he new CEO should live up to the corporate social responsibility” by implementing “policies to protect the poisoned workers and pay the health expenditures for the victims”. Mr Jia also called on Apple to “reform its audit system to prevent similar tragedy” in the future.

According to SACOM, the workers are still waiting for a response from Apple management.
SACOM’s media release (26 August 2011)
(Source: SACOM)

CEO Wage Growth Outstrips Average Wages, Inflation and Share Values
Asia Pacific

The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reports that an Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) study of ASX 100 companies has found that the average chief executive officer’s (CEO) pay has increased 133% over the last 10 years, outstripping the 53% growth in average wages and the 28% inflation increase. The companies’ average share values reportedly only increased 31% over the same period. ACSI chief executive Ann Byrne reportedly said that “[t]he past 10 years have been far better for CEOs of top 100 companies than investors given the annual cash take of a CEO from a large company has almost doubled over the decade”.
SMH: CEO pay doubles in decade (5 September 2011)
(Source: SMH)

Company Report Reveals “One of the Most Dangerous Companies”

Glencore International plc (Glencore) has published its first Sustainability Report (undated) disclosing the the company’s performance in relation to its “people, neighbouring communities, the environment, compliance and customers”.

Reuters reports that the document reveals that the company paid over US$780,000 in major environmental fines and had 18 fatalities in the last year. According to Reuters, Glencore have a comparatively poor record of environmental compliance compared to BHP Billiton’s environmental fines of $35,057 for the same period. Whilst the 18 Glencore fatalities reportedly dwarf Rio Tinto’s recorded three deaths, Indian-focused Vedanta Resources had a more significant record of 26 deaths in 2010-2011.

The Guardian reports that the 2010 figure brings Glencore’s total fatalities over the last three years to 56 deaths.  London Mining Network spokesperson Roger Moody reportedly said that the company’s record showed that “Glencore is one of the most dangerous mining companies listed in London”.
Glencore’s media release (7 September 2011)
The Guardian: Glencore reveals record of fatalities and environmental fines (7 September 2011)
Reuters: Glencore’s 1st sustainability report shows 18 deaths (7 September 2011)
(Source: Glencore; The Guardian; Reuters)

IKEA Used Enslaved East German Political Prisoners for Labor in ’70s

The Age reports that recently released secret Stasi records reveal that Swedish retail chain Ikea used political prisoners in East Germany to make furniture in the 1970s. The company reportedly had strong links with the communist state and opened several factories, including one next to a prison which used inmates as unpaid labour. The percentage of political prisoners in prisons during this time was reportedly as high as 20%. Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad was reportedly quoted in the police file as saying that he had no official knowledge of the use of prison labour, but that if it had occurred, ”in the opinion of Ikea it would be in society’s interests”.
The Age: Ikea used political prisoners as ‘slave labour’ (7 September 2011)
(Source: The Age)