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UNI General Secretary calls out Norway oil fund on labour rights

14 August 2013 By UNI Global Union

Financial Times article describes Philip Jenning's challenge to the world's largest sovereign wealth investor.

UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings has called upon Norway's state owned oil fund to stop ignoring labour issues by investing in companies with a history of workers' rights abuses.\

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In an article in the Financial Times, Jennings, described as "combative", challenged the $760bn fund to raise its game in order to meet today's standards on responsibility.

"I don't think the fund has kept up to speed. You have a responsibility to be a responsible investor. Therefore, human rights need to have a bigger focus," Jennings said.

The fund says it chooses companies in relation to their environmental, social, and governance practices. It has been praised in the past for its decisions to stop investing in companies such as Wal-Mart, which itself has been accused of countless serious abuses.

However, the fund's current portfolio includes Deutsche Post DHL, which has significantly mismanaged labour relations outside Europe, and Deutsche Telekom, through its subsidiary T-Mobile, has engaged in systematic campaigning to intimidate and discourage US employees from organizing a union.

The fund now owns on average 1.25 per cent of every listed company in the world and is larger than Norway's entire gross domestic product. UNI says by bringing labour issues and trade union rights to the fore of its investment agenda, it would be well placed to bring about positive change on a global level.

"The human rights focus almost exclusively on children's rights isn't going to help you [and] being a minority shareholder is no longer an excuse," Jennings said.

The Norwegian government has asked the fund's strategy council to consider changes that could alter the way in which it deals with companies.

At present, the fund's narrow investment policy is putting its own reputation at risk. An OECD body said recently that the fund lacks a strategy for identifying and dealing with possible human rights' violations at the companies in which it invests.

The oil fund argues that the OECD guidelines should not apply to it as a minority shareholder.

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