EO Review of Complaint Regarding Labor Practices at Certified Site Moving Forward

In December, EO received a letter of complaint from the U.S.-based labor organization AFL CIO. Submission of the complaint, which alleged improper labor practices by certified site operator Pacific Rubiales Energy (PRE), initiated an internal review, performed in accordance with EO Procedures for Certification System Comments, Complaints, and Appeals.

To begin the review process, EO convened an ad hoc internal review panel to consider the information submitted by AFL-CIO. The panel consisted of a member of EO’s Standards Board, a member of the Assurance Oversight Committee and a member of the EO Standards Technical Committee. All members of the panel have experience with grievance mechanisms and two of the three members are experts in labor standards.

EO reviewed the audit report on the EO-certified Quifa and Rubiales oil fields and supporting documents which confirmed that the topic of freedom of association was addressed in the initial certification audit. Auditor interviews of workers at the site were conducted in private, without management present and workers did not raise any concerns regarding restrictions of freedom of association. It was noted that the audit applied to the time period April 2013 to April 2014 and many of the concerns raised related to incidents that took place prior to 2013.

EO did, however, note opportunities for improvement in the audit process for conducting a deeper review of freedom of association issues in the audit, which will be applied in the verification audit (an annual inspection of a certified site to verify that practices continue to meet the EO100 Standard) through additional preparation, training, larger interview pools, and the participation of a subject matter expert.

Regarding the EO100 Standard, EO agrees with the comments and suggestions submitted and is incorporating them into the ongoing EO100 Standard review process. Specifically, the right to organize includes the obligation of companies not to interfere in unions or sponsor one organization over another; to recognize the right of workers freely and without intimidation to form or affiliate to whichever organization they wish; and the need for the employer to enter into good faith labor relations with whichever organization workers choose.

Based on the internal review, EO decided to postpone the question of suspension of site certification pending the results of the verification audit and the other following measures:

  • The verification audit scope will include the stakeholder concerns raised and will include a more thorough investigation into the labor practices at the sites. Additional training for the audit team will take place in advance of the verification audit, scheduled for July 2015, and the audit team will include an independent observer.
  • The points awarded to PRE for the Performance Target 3 under 3.4 Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining, will be adjusted in the verification audit to reflect that the performance target is null and void.
  • Prior to the verification audit, EO will meet with local stakeholders in the project areas, in Puerto Gaitan and in Bogota to discuss the EO100 certification system, including opportunities for stakeholder to provide information in the assurance process, and to invite feedback on the EO100 Standard. Any concerns raised regarding specific practices will be shared with the auditors in advance of the verification audit.
  • EO will take account of the AFL-CIO comments in the review process of the EO100 standard and revise the performance targets related to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

This process will be used both to address the specific issue raised in the present case and to inform further development of the standard, the conduct of audits, and certification. The panel also considered that this process could form the basis for a dialogue between Pacific Rubiales Energy and local stakeholders.

EO has requested formal responses from PRE and Deloitte Colombia. Once received, they will be published here. EO expects that demonstrable actions by the company that result in specific improvements in labor practices at the certified sites would be a positive outcome for all stakeholders.

As the process continues, we look forward to further strengthening the EO100 Standard and certification process. We will continue to publish updates on the complaint review process and resulting recommendations

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