Questions in the Dutch Parliament concerning alleged breaches of the OECD Guidelines by Dutch grain trading company Nidera.
On 25 June 2011, an OECD Guidelines complaint was submitted against the Dutch grain company Nidera. The complaint, submitted by the Argentinean NGOs CEDHA and INCASUR and the Dutch NGOs Oxfam Novib and SOMO to the National Contact Point (NCP) for OECD Guidelines in the Netherlands, related to the activities of Nidera in Argentina. In the past year, degrading working conditions were observed on the company’s plantation for seed cultivation in San Pedro near Buenos Aires. Partly on the basis of the OECD Guidelines complaint, published in OECD Watch’s “Quarterly Case Update”, Labour Party parliamentarians Pauline Smeets and Sjoera Dikkers put questions in the Dutch Parliament on 29 June regarding the way in which the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation gathered information on the company.
The parliamentary questions were directed at Secretary of State Bleker (Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation) and Minister Rosenthal (Home Office). The reason for the questions was to ascertain why the ministers only requested information from the Dutch head office of Nidera and did not rely on information from the Argentinian government or trade unions, as did the NGOs that submitted the OECD Guidelines complaint.
In January of this year, the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant reported on a raid carried out by the Argentinian Department of Justice on the plantation at which the breaches had taken place. The newspaper reported that the ”Rotterdam grain trading company Nidera is guilty of ‘slavery-like practices’, according to the Argentinian Department of Justice. Seasonal workers were allegedly required to use holes in the ground as toilets, take baths in a container used to hold pesticides, and were forbidden to leave the site. In addition, Nidera allegedly charges so much money for food and drink that there is nothing left from the illegal contract workers’ meagre wages.”
In response to earlier parliamentary questions following on from the report in de Volkskrant, the ministers responded on 26 April that the accusations "were not, to date, substantiated by a formal complaint".. According to Ministers Bleker and Rosenthal "The company totally rejects the accusations and substantiates this denial with extensive documentation". The ministers asserted that they have sufficient insight into the situation, but also indicated that they had not had any contact with their Argentinian counterparts on this matter.
The Labour Party parliamentarians also addressed the role of the Dutch development bank FMO in their questions on 29 June. FMO is one of the main financiers of the Nidera’s Argentinian subsidiary in San Pedro. The main question to which they sought an answer was whether the FMO sufficiently evaluates potential loan recipients in terms of social and environmental criteria.
National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines
The main role of NCPs is to familiarise companies with the OECD Guidelines and to promote their application (provision of information). NCPs are also responsible for handling complaints about corporate breaches of the Guidelines submitted by NGOs and trade unions. The Dutch NCP is currently evaluating the admissibility of the complaint against Nidera. Each quarter, OECD Watch publishes its “Quarterly Case Update”, which contains an overview of new and pending OECD Guidelines cases filed by NGOs.
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