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Kenyan tea workers file UN complaint against Unilever over 2007 ethnic violence (theguardian.com)
106 points by onyva 49 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 19 comments

Executive Summary: Unilever uses multinational status to dodge litigation for failure to protect workers.

More like African community uses parent companies multinational status to file a complaint to UK courts and the UN instead of the local, Kenyan, court system. I don't think it's the only plantation which had to do such a thing, but since most would be locally owned they don't get dragged before the UN.

If a corporation is going to transplant workers to a plantation in an unsafe place, then the corporation has responsibility for keeping the workers safe.

A big element of their case that's oddly not mentioned in this Guardian article is that the violence was foreseeable and nothing was done to stop it. The tensions did not bubble up overnight, and this was not the first instance of violence in an otherwise peaceful place. There were many signs that something like this could happen, and Unilever declined to spend resources on keeping the workers safe. As a result many of the workers were raped and murdered. Now the survivors are seeking justice, and they deserve it.

Unilever are the corporation who was ultimately profiting from the employees' work, so the survivors have a right to seek justice from them directly.

> If a corporation is going to transplant workers to a plantation in an unsafe place, then the corporation has responsibility for keeping the workers safe.

Citation needed - I never heard of a corporation being required (or allowed) to do law enforcement (private security companies might be contracted bt the government, but simply going and doing is most definitely not possible). The UN declares that a responsibility of governments, and one of the keys to the land claim and recognition of the state.

In some jurisdictions it's legal to stop a crime by appropriate means, but it is not a responsibility of any private person or entity, and it also does not mean you do it normally - that's where you're crossing into the "private army" territory.

There ought to be some consequences for knowingly putting and leaving people in a place where they are likely to be raped and murdered. Contracting adequate (local or foreign) private security is not the only way to resolve a situation like this. You could also remove the people.

That's what the government is for. Either let the corporation be wholly responsible for safety (including things like surveillance, risk analysis, prevention etc), or don't complain about the corporation not doing it when there is a government saying they have it covered. Why are you not angry at the government for not stopping this foreseeable crime?

So every coma y in New York City should be liable for any crimes committed against their employees on the streets of NYC?

What ever happened to prosecuting perpetrators instead of bystanders? What ever happened to the responsibility of government to prevent crimes?

Fences and lockable doors or gates are one thing the company can do.

Fences, gates and lockable doors stop petty thieves, not ethnic cleansers

They buy you time to get out.

How can a foreign private company or person be responsible for protection of people during a civil war? Or what is the complaint about? The unpaid wages? Why is my unpaid wage not a human rights issue too, then - do I need to be african for that?

My reading is that Unilever had a large non-indigenous workforce living on a plantation that was attacked. This was a western Kenyan plantation and I suspect the workers had travelled there from other west-Kenyan areas based on their tribe. I'm not expert on Kenyan law or the way these business contracts play out but I feel the issue at play here is if Unilever has a responsibility to protect workers when nationwide ethnic violence breaks out, and they have non-indigenous workers.

Are (foreign!) private people or corporations even allowed to operate a private law enforcement unit in Kenya? I thought the UN discourages that, and it's outright illegal in most countries of EU - meaning the corporation can't have such unit anywhere, that applies to its subsidies too; personal participation in such units is a serious crime as well.

I lived in Kenya before, during, and after the 2007 ethnic violence caused by the disputed results of the presidential election... but why is this on HN? It's completely unrelated to technology or startups.

Labor laws and organising has a lot to do with tech, especially when many of our biggest modern tech unicorns are running on innovatively circumventing labor laws and employee recognition.

The means we found out had some kind of electronic transmission so there's a bit of tech in it.

Actually, it's because Unilever hacked the corporate structure in order to dodge litigation. Legal engineering.

Corporate structures are often used to shield from frivolous lawsuits, like these.

From social engineering to societal engineering

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