U.S. Leads List With 134 Companies Pulling Out : 188 Firms Have Left South Africa, Survey Finds
About 1,270 companies from 20 Western countries are doing business in South Africa but 188 companies from seven countries have pulled out, according to a survey published Monday.
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions survey said Britain led the field with 374 companies still operating in South Africa. It said the United States led the countries that pulled out with 134 companies.
The Brussels-based confederation is the largest trade union organization in the non-communist world, with a membership of 87 million workers in 97 countries.
Activists have urged Western companies to withdraw from South Africa to pressure the government to end apartheid.
Under apartheid, South Africa’s system of traditional and legalized racial segregation, the 26 million blacks have no vote in national affairs. The 5 million whites control the economy and maintain separate districts, schools and health services.
Confederation Secretary General John Vanderveken said in a press release that the report was “clear evidence of the triumph of corporate greed over morality.”
He derided the claim often made by investors in South Africa that their presence could be an instrument for reform. “Cheap labor is what brings them to South Africa, not a desire to restore social justice,” Vanderveken said.
The report was particularly critical of companies such as the British Tyre & Rubber Co., which it said are failing to respect internationally agreed minimum standards on wages and working conditions.
It also blamed some British companies for claiming to have pulled out of South Africa but having retained substantial interests there.
“The independent black trade union movement of South Africa is adamant that economic sanctions remain the best way of bringing peaceful change to their country,” Vanderveken said. “The ICFTU remains committed to that policy.”
Following Britain, countries with the biggest number of companies still in South Africa were West Germany with 333; the United States, 164; Japan, 103; France, 90; Switzerland, 54; the Netherlands, 29; Austria, 28; Belgium, 20; Australia, 19; Canada, 18; Sweden and Denmark, 10 each; Italy, 7; Finland and Ireland, 2 each, and Spain, Norway, Portugal and Greece with 1 each.
Among the countries pulling out, Britain was No. 2 with 26 companies; Canada, 20; the Netherlands, 4; France, 2, and Italy and Australia with 1 each.
The labor organization said several of the 333 German companies in South Africa were involved in the armaments industry. Among those listed were BMW and Volkswagen, whose South African subsidiaries were making armored cars, and a subsidiary of AEG Telefunken, the electronics company, which makes switch gears for armored cars.
Among U.S. companies in South Africa were MGM, Twentieth Century Fox and Pan American. French firms included the tourist company Club Mediterranee and the pharmaceutical and chemical company Rhone-Poulenc. The Dutch airline KLM and the electronics giant Philips have subsidiaries in South Africa.
The state-controlled Italian petroleum company ENI and Belgium’s leading holding company Societe Generale de Belgique were also operating there, it said.