The Multinational Monitor


N E W S   R O U N D U P

French minister slams multinationals

Multinational corporations are "modern Templars" exercising "power for power's sake." So spoke France's minister for external relations, Claude Cheysson, at a meeting of European socialist parties in Paris on November 12.

"Socialists cannot accept" the power these corporations wield, Cheysson said, urging socialist governments "to take risks" in order to control the companies. The programs of the French socialists under president Francois Mitterand are "bad for the multinationals," explained Cheysson, adding that "to put these programs into effect, we will have to do battle" with the multinationals.

Italian workers seize Gulf, Mobil refinery

Gulf and Mobil got acquainted with Italian labor militancy this November when a group of Italians seized a refinery at Bertonico, Italy, with Mobil taking the remaining 25% share.

The workers were protesting the decision by the companies to close down the refinery and lay off 197 employees. If the firms do not agree to reopen the refinery, the workers and their unions are threatening to institute a boycott of all Gulf and Mobil products.

Dumping drugs from Bangladesh

Pharmaceutical companies in Bangladesh have found a way to beat a ban on their hazardous products. Ordered by the Bangladesh government this spring to destroy their drugs, the companies have succeeded in pressuring the government to allow them to export the harmful products. So reports War on Want, a non-profit human rights group based in England.

Three European companies - ICI, Baker, and Organon - applied for the permits in September, and after some debate within the government, says War on Want, the licenses were granted on October 6.

ICI intends to ship some of its outlawed products to Saudi Arabia; Baker plans to deliver its banned drugs to West Africa; and Organon is looking to Saudi Arabia and Africa as , dumping grounds, War on Want reports.

Bechtel workers strike in Indonesia

The Bechtel Corporation, which brought you secretary of state George Shultz and secretary of defense Caspar Weinberger, caused a ruckus in Indonesia in late October when it decided to stop serving meals to its 3000 workers. The employees went on strike to protest Bechtel's move.

Bechtel is expanding the capacity of a major oil refinery in the country. It's "common practice in oil circles to provide meals" to workers, says an official of Pertamina, Indonesia's state-owned oil company.

- Ron Millar

Indonesia sparks "cold war" against oil companies

Pertamina, Indonesia's national oil company, jolted foreign oil firms operating in the country by issuing a directive in mid-November ordering the companies to replace over 3000 foreign workers with Indonesian natives by the end of the year.

Foreign oil contractors "have not been moving fast enough in implementing `Indonesianization," says an official from Pertaminina. `Indonesianization' is the government policy, initiated in 1976, that requires foreign companies to hire and train Indonesian workers.

"There is a cold war between foreign oil companies and Pertamina," concerning Indonesianization, says the Pertamina official. Spokespeople from Arco and Caltex, two U.S. firms with oil investments in Indonesia, claimed their companies were adhering to the government's policy. Neither company would say if they would be able to comply with the directive before the deadline.

- Ron Millar

Sears bolting from Central America

Sears Roebuck - the world's 16th largest multinational corporation - is packing its bags and moving out of Central America.

The company shut down its Nicaragua store in March 1982 and closed its Costa Rican outlets shortly thereafter. Two Honduran stores and one Guatemalan outlet were boarded up in November, with the company's other Guatemalan store slated to close in December, a Sears official said. (The company, however, says it has no intention at this time of closing its Panama and El Salvador stores.)

Central America's "severe economic problems, balance of payment deficits and inflation" have made business unprofitable, Sears explained.

Sears' decision to disinvest is symptomatic of the economic and security problems in the area," comments one State Department officer. While Sears' action alone will have "little impact" on the region, "it's not insignificant," the official says, "because it's part of a trend."

Quote of the month

"It is in our own selfish interest to have a strong government that controls the students and labor so everything will blossom and we can continue to make profits," one American businessman living in South Korea told the Far Eastern Economic Review.

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