The same day that DHL Express announced a potentially lucrative partnership with the U.S Department of Commerce to boost U.S. exports, a scathing report surfaced slamming parent company Deutsche Post DHL for mistreating employees. According to the white paper, titled “Corporate Irresponsibility, Deutsche Post DHL’s Global Labour Practices Exposed,” the company has violated numerous ethical standards, including submitting workers in Colombia, Costa Rica and South Africa to lie detector tests and paying sub-par wages.
The UNI Global Union and the International Transport Workers’ Federation conducted the probe and presented their findings at DHL’s annual general meeting in Frankfurt. According to a press release issued by the trade union, “The research … shows widespread and systematic abuses regarding freedom of association and precarious work. In country after country, workers are fearful of retaliation [from DHL] if they try to organize a union.”
The report also asserted that workers subcontracted by DHL in India, Indonesia and Malaysia were paid “substantially less” than regular employees, despite doing equal work.
UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings spoke out about the alleged violations, commenting that “DHL’s global practices are a definite risk to the company’s ethics, reputation and image. This new report shows a shopping list of labor violations. DHL clearly needs to address these concerns if it is to be seen as an ethical and responsible global operator.”
In response to these claims, a DHL spokeswoman told Air Cargo World that DHL is “aware that the Global Union Federations UNI and ITF have published a white paper. Before we can make any detailed comments, we still have to analyze the content in full. However, it is evident that the majority of the cases mentioned in the white paper are outdated, have been closed or are currently dealt with within the respective national legal procedures. In many of these cases, the actual facts significantly differ from those expressed by the trade unions UNI/ITF.
“Deutsche Post DHL adheres to national law and practices,” the spokeswoman continued. “Furthermore, DP DHL is a respectful employer. In our group, we practice and promote a culture of constructive dialogue, both between employees and managers as well as between the executive management and employees’ representatives. We respect human rights within our area of influence and operate our businesses in such a way as to make us an employer of choice.”
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration has certainly shown its support of DHL, tasking DHL Express with helping small- and mid-size businesses expand globally. Under the new partnership, DHL’s U.S.-exporting clients will receive ITA consulting services and obtain leads from overseas contacts. The integrator’s U.S.-based customers will also benefit from market research only available only to ITA registrants, according to a press release.
“Through this new partnership, we’ll bring even more resources to bear for our customers beyond our unmatched knowledge of international shipping and industry leading global network,” Ian Clough, CEO of DHL Express U.S., said in a statement. “By introducing them to new international resources and providing valuable customized consulting services, we will help them grow even more effectively on an international scale.”
DHL is enjoying international growth, as well. In a press release, DHL revealed that group revenues for the company totaled €13.4 billion during the first quarter of 2012 — a 4.3 percent, year-over-year, surge. The integrator’s express and mail divisions performed particularly well during the first three months of 2012, with revenues rising 10 percent and 1.1 percent, year-over-year, respectively. Such increases led DHL executives to reiterate their forecast that group EBIT will hover between €2.5 billion and €2.6 billion in 2012, according to a press release.
Frank Appel, CEO of Deutsche Post DHL, shed more light on this projection, pointing to DHL’s increasing presence in critical markets. “Given the somewhat subdued global economic environment, our successful start into the year is clear evidence for us continuing to build on our strengths,” he said in a statement. “The efficiency improvements we have achieved in recent years and our unmatched position in the world’s growth markets have prepared us well for continuing on our profitable growth path.”
Asia and the Americas were key regions for the integrator during the first three months of 2012. According to a press release, these markets contributed greatly to the more than €3 billion revenue reported in DHL’s Express division during the first quarter.
To prepare for even more growth in the Americas, DHL announced in March that it’s expanding its presence at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, which has served as its U.S. cargo hub since 2009. The integrator is currently investing $47 million to construct a new, 17,930-square-meter sorting facility at CVG, in addition to renovating its current facilities at the airport.
DHL Express CEO Ken Allen said that the CVG hub, which handles more than 2 million shipments each month, is key to DHL’s growth strategy. “This investment in our Americas hub is being made to support current growth, but also the significant mid- to long-term potential we see in international express volumes to and from the Americas,” he said in March.
The integrator also anticipates increased freight volumes in and out of Europe and Asia, as evidenced by the March 27 launch of an around-the-world, express flight connecting Hong Kong, Los Angeles and Leipzig. The new route will benefit from DHL’s extra Boeing 777F capacity, provided by the multiyear deal the integrator inked with Southern Air in November.