investors to back TUC action on Burma

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date: Friday 17 May 2002

embargo: 00:01h Monday 20 May 2002

Attention: Industrial and investment correspondents

A number of large UK institutional investors will vote in favour of a shareholder resolution at the AGM of US energy company Unocal today (Monday), following a global trade union campaign.

The TUC called on UK pension funds and other institutional investors to recognize the value of good corporate citizenship, by supporting a shareholder resolution on Burma. The resolution calls on Unocal to adopt and implement an enforceable company-wide employee policy based on the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

The TUC has contacted over 100 pension funds and held meetings with key investors to encourage support. Information about the resolution was also sent to all 630 members of the TUC Trustees Network. A number of large UK institutional investors, including fund manager CIS and some individual pension funds, have now decided to vote in favour or abstained from voting on the resolution.

This builds on work in the US where CalPERS and the New York State Common Retirement Fund have both decided to vote in favour of the resolution. In addition the US proxy voting agency ISS has also recommended that its clients vote in favour of the resolution.

TUC Institutional Investment Officer, Tom Powdrill, said:

'Increasingly, investors are pushing companies to recognize that not taking account of their social responsibilities can cause risks to their shareholders. Companies operating in Burma run all kinds of risks and shareholders are rightly concerned about them. Those institutional investors who are supporting the ILO resolution at Unocal’s AGM are sending a clear message to the company that they are aware of and concerned by the risks.

'The recent release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest shows international pressure can make a difference. Now is the time to intensify that pressure, not let Burma off the hook.'

Notes to Editors:

  • A similar resolution at Unocal’s AGM last year won around 23% of the vote.
  • The TUC Trustees Network has 630 members. The total assets of the schemes these trustees are involved with stewarding are over £260bn.
  • The ILO is the UN specialized agency which seeks the promotion of social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights.
  • The proposal is intended to address Unocal’s risk of being a party to or appearing to benefit from human rights violations. Unocal does business in Burma, which is ruled by a military dictatorship widely condemned for its systematic human rights abuses. Unocal partnered with the Burmese government in a gas field project that hired the Burmese military to provide security services. In doing so, the military committed numerous human rights violations, including forced labour.
  • Because Unocal is a US company many UK investors may only have a small holding in the company. But by supporting the resolution they can demonstrate that there is global recognition of the importance of good corporate behaviour, and of the potential risk to shareholders of getting it wrong.

Contacts:

Media enquiries: TUC Press Office 020 7467 1248, email [email protected] or page 07654 589 780 over the weekend of May 18th & 19th

Other enquiries: Tom Powdrill 020 7467 1201 or email [email protected]

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