AkademikerPension to Sell Stake in Wizz Air due to Alleged “Human and Labour Rights Abuses”

AkademikerPension to Sell Stake in Wizz Air due to Alleged “Human and Labour Rights Abuses”

Danish pension fund AkademikerPension has announced that it is to sell its shares in Hungarian-based budget airline, Wizz Air, which are valued at DKK 22 million.

The decision comes after management at the airline failed to reassure investors over allegations in relation to human rights and labour abuses. Amongst the allegations included the refusal of the airline to recognise Unions and the firing of staff due to Union membership.

The CEO of AkademikerPension has described the decision by the company as “the last tool in our toolbox.”

In December 2021, AkademikerPension was one of 14 investors that contacted management at Wizz Air seeking immediate changes to company treatment of employees. In a statement issued today by the pension fund, it said that “only when investors aired criticism in the press did the management of Wizz Air agree to attend a meeting. Here it informed about its approach and that it did not want to change behaviour.”

Director of AkademikerPension, Jens Munch Holst, said, “After dialogue with the company’s management, we have in no way been reassured that it will initiate the changes we have requested. On the contrary. Therefore, we see no other way than to exclude the company.”

The statement outlines studies have shown that the management of Wizz Air has repeatedly refused to recognize the freedom of association of employees and the right to enter into collective bargaining in Romania, Ukraine, Norway and Italy, among others. Several courts have also ruled that the company has exhibited discriminatory behaviour and fired employees because of their union affiliation.

Mr. Holst said, “Management’s behaviour is in conflict with human and labor rights in accordance with, among other things, the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Business. And the risk of being linked to a clear and persistent breach of our responsible investment policy is simply too high if we remain invested.”

In 2020 the Wizz Air’s CEO, József Varadi, stated that the company was deliberately against trade unions, saying that, “trade unions are killing the business”.

“Exclusion is the last tool in our toolbox. And if we are not ready to use it, we have nothing to threaten when we as an investor try to influence companies to change course in this kind of case. So now Wizz Air is out of our investment universe,” concluded Mr. Holst.

Image by KrzysztofTe Foto Blog/Via Openverse/ CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Antoinette Tyrrell is a writer and journalist who started her career in print and broadcast journalism in Ireland. An English and History graduate of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, she worked for 11 years in corporate public relations for Irish Government bodies in the Foreign Direct Investment and Energy sectors.

She is the founder of GoWrite, a business writing and public relations consultancy. Her work has appeared in a range of national and international media and trade publications. She is also a traditionally published novelist of commercial fiction.

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