US - New York City comptroller William C. Thompson, on behalf of the five New York City pension funds, has requested 15 companies to adopt workplace human rights policies.
The workplace rights include banning child labour; allowing workers to form and join trade unions and bargain collectively; prohibiting discrimination of worker representatives or intimidation in employment; and not using forced labour including bonded or prison labour.
Thompson filed the shareholder proposals for: the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System, New York City Police Pension Fund, New York City Fire Department Pension Fund and Board of Education Retirement System.
“We are calling on these corporations to respect workers’ basic human rights,” Thompson said. “In this day and age, it’s disturbing that we need to put forward a shareholder proposal seeking decent working conditions.
“Issues such as child labour and the right to form and join a union have long been regulated in this country. There is no reason why these US based companies should not implement the same basic human rights in their overseas operations. In fact, refusing to adopt these principles allows for reputational risk and potential losses for investors.”
NYCERS Trustee and New York City public advocate Betsy Gotbaum said US companies operating globally should have uniform treatment of employees.
“It is unconscionable for a company that prohibits discrimination and child labour in the US to permit it abroad. It is a bad policy for workers and will ultimately impact negatively on shareholder value.”
The policies requested by the funds’ are based on the conventions of the International Labor Organisation (ILO) on workplace human rights and the United Nation’s Norms on the Responsibility of Transnational Corporations (UN Norms) with regard to human rights.
The shareholder proposals ask companies to commit to the implementation of a code of conduct that adopts the principles outlined by the ILO and the UN Norms and commit to independent compliance of these principles.
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