Child Labor in Indonesia?
KOMPAK, an organization protecting children's rights, is accusing BAYER of providing dangerous working conditions, as well as of having employed children in their Indonesian pesticides production.
April 4th, 1995: five helicopters arrive in Leverkusen. The Indonesian president Suharto visits the headquarters of BAYER, received by Bayer's board. This meeting documents the good relationship between BAYER and the dictators around the world. At the same time, the children's rights group from Indonesia is seeking help from German activists. KOMPAK reports violations of even the lax Indonesian safety regulations. Information about the ages of young workers had reportedly been altered. When representatives of KOMPAK took jobs at the facilities to monitor the conditions, they documented the following violations: Workers are exposed to poisonous gases and extreme heat and humidity at the PT SINAR PLATACO plant.
Workers at all levels of production complain about health problems (such as coughing, headaches 95%, eye problems 30%, asthma, pulmonary diseases, skin diseases 60%). According to a survey, 90% of the employed persons consider occupational safety insufficient. Most of them have received no safety instructions for handling hazardous chemicals. Some masks have been distributed, but they are made from cloth and thus do not protect from toxic fumes. Most of the workers have no chance to become permanent employees. 50% are day-laborers with no health benefits or social security. They can be laid off at any time without any payments. When people are hired, their age is not being checked. Applicants must claim that they are not under age, but obviously child labor is being tolerated. Young workers are used in all areas of production including those with occupational hazards. In times of high production, shifts can take up to 16 hours.
It is BAYER's obligation as the licencing holder to make sure that product and production standards at the production facilities are being met. Some stockholders brought up the issue at the annual stockholder meeting this spring. Board chairman Manfred Schneider denied all allegations, especially the issue of child labor. Child labor allegations are extremely damaging to the image of the company, so apparently Bayer has urged their licensee to lay off the children. The Coalition against BAYER-dangers requests BAYER not to invest in countries like Indonesia and China since there are no free unions and human rights are not ensured. To conduct business in these countries must be considered unethical. At least, transnational corporations such as Bayer should promote democracy and demand respect for human rights in these countries.
US-American victims of HIV contaminated BAYER drugs have been demonstrating in front of the BAYER building in San Francisco every Wednesday for an entire year. BAYER has knowingly infected people with HIV worldwide. In some countries BAYER has already payed compensation, but not in appropriate amounts and never without public or legal pressure. In April of 1997, the company for the first time has paid some compensation for a part of the US victims infected in the 80ies. There are still US victims fighting for compensation.
Wage Dumping in Guatemala
Apparently, conditions at the BAYER facility in Guatemala are catastrophic. A union leader reports that the number of workers has been reduced from 350 to 56 in the past ten years. At the same time the production of pesticides increased by 100%. New workers are hired through a second company, without contracts, health benefits or vacation. All the workers at the pesticide plant complain about anemia and damages to their nervous systems. The daily wage is 87 Quetzal which is above the minimum wage but below the cost of living of a family. The plant manager, as in all Bayer facilities in foreign countries, is a German.
Damaged pipe in Dormagen/Germany
30.6.96, 21.00: 12 tons of Toluylendiamine (TDA) were spilling out of a pipe on the premises of the BAYER facility in Dormagen. The cancerogenic substance was spilling onto the parking lot and the half open production building. A passenger train coming by during the accident had to be stopped and examined. Two workers were hospitalized. It remains unclear, which long term impacts this accident will have on the health of workers and people the community.
Death in Brazil
A man employed in chromat production at the BAYER Belford Rox facility died of burns from hot gas, when production tools were restarted after repairs. German Unions say that the danger of gas explosions in such a situation is well known in Leverkusen, but obviously German safety standards do not apply in Brazil. "These conditions should be changed, before more people die from BAYER's activities in Brazil and other countries". Last year, workers at Belford Rox had complained about ruptured columns of the nose.
Compensation For Slave Workers
Former concentration camp prisoner David Fishel from the USA is suing the companies that he was forced to work for during the World War II (BAYER is one of them).More than eight million people had to do slave work for the Nazi war industry. None of them ever received compensation payments from the companies or the German government. Former prisoner Fishel: "If you didn't work the way they wanted you to, they hit you and took you to the SS, and then everything got even worse. This camp was hell on earth." Fishel is one of the few survivors of the camp. He has never received any compensation for the years of slave labor. "I was a slave. I worked for nothing and now they owe me the wage. They had thousands working for them...."Fishel went to a court of justice in Iowa. He wants compensation for himself and a group of other former slaves of the NS-Regime. At the age of 13 Fishel worked near Auschwitz for IG Farben, which was turned into Bayer, Hoechst and BASF after the war. Fishel: "We had to carry bags of coal and cement, each bag had a weight of 50 kilos. My own weight war 75 pounds at this time. We had to sleep on the ground, people died like flies, and their bodies were carried away and buried in mass graves." Fishel has stirred up the large companies with his suit. The firms are now looking for protection from the German federal government. Since September '96 several meetings took place with representatives of BAYER, the state department, department of defense and the department of finances. Generally the government seems to be willing to try to influence the trial in Iowa in order to prevent a flood of follow-up suits.
translated by Nikki Zeuner, Arizona Toxics Information
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