July 1980 - VOLUME 1 - NUMBER 6
Dutch Labor Divests
In what represents an unprecedented shareholder action by a national trade union federation in the industrialized West, the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions (FNV) has announced plans to divest from companies doing business in South Africa and Chile.
FNV, whose one million members account for 80 percent of The Netherlands' organized labor force, in July committed itself to a gradual divestment of approximately $13 million in strike funds, representing about one-third of the federation's investment portfolio. FNV chairman Wim Kok Characterized Chile and South Africa as countries where "trade union rights are trampled under foot."
Recognizing that FNV's new policy might make investing in large corporations difficult, Kok said, "if it emerges that only a few multinationals do not trade with South Africa we will have to ask ourselves whether there is any sense linking up with multinationals at all."
FNV has not officially disclosed the details of the affected investments. According to Dutch press reports, the federation has major stock and bond holdings in Phillips, Shell and Unilever.
The federation's action reflects growing popular Dutch criticism of corporate support for apartheid. In a June confidence vote, Labor party members and Christian Democratic "dissidents" came within two votes of pushing through a Dutch oil embargo against South Africa and bringing down the center-right government of Andreas van Agt.
Jan Scholten, member of Parliament and author of the embargo resolution, expects the proposal to become law by October. "If the Dutch government refuses to accept the oil embargo, then they will not have enough members to stay in power," he said in an interview. "It's a very hot issue. Churches, unions and many pressure groups are behind it," scholten added.