Tomorrow (28 May) logistics giant XPO will hold the 2020 AGM for its European division. This comes soon after news that at least six workers across France, Italy, Britain and the Netherlands have died after contracting Covid-19.
Earlier this month, XPO workers gave evidence of poor health and safety standards to investors ahead of the company’s parallel US AGM. However, the European AGM is being held behind closed doors and shareholders are not permitted to attend online or in person.
Despite these obstacles, unions have submitted three key questions to XPO management ahead of tomorrow’s AGM:
- Does XPO have data on the number of its workers who are likely or confirmed to have contracted Covid-19, including the number who have died?
- Will XPO agree to urgently establish a Global Occupational Health and Safety Forum with unions to collaborate in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic?
- Will XPO comply with its obligation under French law to consult unions on its Vigilance Plan, in order to prevent labour abuses in its supply chain?
On 1 October 2019, long before the Covid-19 pandemic reached Europe, unions issued a formal notice to XPO under the French Vigilance Law. As a company headquartered in France, XPO Europe is obliged to take reasonable measures to prevent labour abuses in its supply chain, as well as report on the actions taken and their effectiveness.
XPO initially refused to respond positively to the formal notice, but the company has now attempted to improve its very basic Vigilance Plan. While it is welcome that XPO has begun to listen to unions and work towards complying with the law, the current Plan is still insufficient.
In particular, in revising its Plan, XPO must consult with unions representing workers in all countries where it operates. Yesterday, lawyers acting on behalf of the XPO Global Network of Unions wrote to the company to urge them to fully comply with the law, including with the requirement to consult with unions.
ITF inland transport secretary, Noel Coard, said: “XPO has started to feel pressure from union demands to make some changes to its Vigilance Plan. However, there is still much more work to be done. XPO workers have died from Covid-19 while on the job. Although we can’t determine for sure where these workers contracted the virus, we have to wonder how much stronger XPO’s response would be if the company had been collaborating with unions internationally.”
“Tomorrow, unions will once again take their demands to the XPO AGM to try and make the company see sense. Covid-19 has shown the damage that can be done by failing to consistently uphold strong labour standards. It’s time for XPO to step up and protect its workforce against the pandemic by setting up a Global Occupational Health and Safety Forum with unions at the table.”