Turkish workers want to bow to French cosmetics giant

The French group Yves Rocher has been summoned before the court of Paris by a Turkish trade union, two associations and 34 (former) employees of one of its subsidiaries.

In 2019, the Yves Rocher group will become a company with a mission, communicating at will about its commitments and its products, some of which have ingredients from organic farming. On its website, the company recalls this quote from Bris Rocher: “It’s not about being the best company in the world, it’s about being the best company in the world” The group’s chairman and CEO was even commissioned by Bruno Le Maire and Olivia Grégoire, then Minister of the Economy and State Secretary for Social, Solidarity and Responsible Economy respectively. His subject of study? Responsible management.

But behind the scenes, a lawsuit is tarnishing the responsible and green image of the Rocher empire. 34 former and former employees of a Turkish subsidiary of the group, Kosan Kozmetik, as well as ActionAid France, Sherpa (NGO that uses the law to fight the practices of multinational companies), and the Turkish trade union Petrol-Is have sued Yves Rocher for the court of paris “For failing to fulfill its duty of vigilance with regard to freedom of association and fundamental rights” employees, Action Aid recalled in a press release.

After an initial hearing on June 30, the various NGOs and the trade union involved in the case held a press conference to recall the facts and shed light on the French cosmetics giant’s contradictions.

132 people fired

To understand the proponents of the case, we have to go back to the year 2018, sums up Mehdi Achour, President of Action Aid. One hundred people who work for Kosan Kozmetik, a factory in Gebze, Turkey, have been laid off by the French group. In question ? These men and women joined a trade union: Petrol-Iş. “Embedded in companies producing oil, tires and chemicals”, explains Rıza Köse, head of international relations at Petrol-Iş, it has about 40,000 members. Yves Rocher is one of the “priorities” of the union because working conditions in its Turkish subsidiary are far from exemplary, according to former and former employees. Very low wages, exposure to harmful products, lack of suitable equipment, imposed overtime hours, discrimination against workers and harassment: the list of criticisms is long, which is why workers have decided to join the Petrolis union. Their objectives: to assert their rights and demand action from Yves Rocher.

Here, according to Rıza Köse, the tensions only increased:

“Our union was recognized by the Ministry of Labor at the end of April 2018. In May, the group started firing our members at this factory.”

Faced with these successive layoffs, 132 out of 350 employees, Petrol-Iş . launches “a resistance movement”worn by a majority of women. “There were 300 days of strikes and many supporters”, explains the chairman of Action Aid. Ultimately, the workers were able to obtain financial compensation from the company, but this is considered too insufficient. A former employee trusted West France

“I gave five years of my life to this company before I was fired just because I expressed my support for one of my fired colleagues. I can’t find a job anymore because our former bosses have spread the word and want to be in the region no one hires us.”

The association Action Aid France has joined forces with Sherpa to support the union and the workers by assisting them in legal proceedings for breach of their vigilance.

Duty of vigilance: as an article on the Actu-juridique website reminds us, the law on vigilance was adopted in France in March 2017. Since then, multinationals have been held responsible for the actions of their subsidiaries. The Kozan Kosmetic factory produces cosmetics for the Flormar group, says Salma Lamqaddam, campaign manager for women’s rights at work at the NGO ActionAid France in this article. “It was bought in 2012 by the Rocher group, whose main brand is Yves Rocher. This group, chaired by Bris Rocher, is today the main shareholder. The pedigree is therefore direct and clear.‘ she underlines.

A historical test

With this process, the union, the NGOs and the 34 petitioners have different expectations:

  • Recognition of a violation of rights in Petrol-Iş’s attempt to settle at Kosan Kozmetik’s factory.
  • May justice be done and may this case serve as an example for all other companies operating in Turkey.
  • That the workers can receive financial compensation for the violations suffered.
  • Free the voice of trade unions operating in this type of business in Turkey.

Lucie Chatelain, Sherpa’s Litigation and Advocacy Manager, explains how this trial could be a milestone for French parent companies. It is the first time that employees of a subsidiary have attacked a French group.

A second hearing is scheduled for October 6. Perhaps the opportunity is for the Yves Rocher group to shed light on this matter they have in the pages of The new factory† The group has not yet responded to our request for an interview when asked.

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