(NUPGE) Norway cites ethics in ending Wal-Mart pension investments

Oslo - Citing ethical reasons, the Norwegian government has withdrawn more than $430-million (U.S.) in pension investments from two American corporate giants, Wal-Mart Stores and Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold.

The government said its national pension fund, one of the largest in the world, ended its association with Wal-Mart because of "serious and systematic" abuses of human and labour rights. Freeport-McMoRan is being dropped for environmental reasons.

The finance ministry took the action on the recommendation of an ethical council that advises managers of the fund. Investments were dropped previously in companies involved in the production of anti-personnel land mines, cluster bombs and nuclear weapons.

The ministry said the council assembled "an extensive body of material" demonstrating that Wal-Mart had employed minors in violation of international labour standards, tolerated hazardous working conditions by many of its suppliers and blocked workers from organizing to advance their interests.

Other abuses by the world's largest retailer included pressuring workers to work overtime without compensation, practicing pay discrimination against women and preventing "all attempts to unionize," it said.

The report looked at Wal-Mart operations in the United States and Canada and at Wal-Mart suppliers in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Lesotho, Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, Malawi, Madagascar, Swaziland, Bangladesh, China and Indonesia.

Wal-Mart was invited by Norway to comment on the findings in September. The Arkansas-based giant did not respond.

Freeport-McMoRan was cited for using a natural river system to dispose of tailings from its a huge copper mine on the island of New Guinea in Indonesia.

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has signed a formal protocol with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada) supporting a national drive to organize Wal-Mart employees across Canada.