Danish fund divests from Wizz Air over human and labour rights abuse concerns
Danish pension fund AkademikerPension has said it will divest from low-cost airline Wizz Air over concerns of human and labour rights abuse.
AkademikerPension explained that the decision to divest more than $3m was made after Wizz Air’s management failed to reassure investors about the legality of their labour and human rights practices.
“The management’s behaviour conflicts with human and labour rights as outlined by, among others, the UN guiding principles on business and human rights,” said the fund’s chief executive Jens Munch Holst. “The risk of being linked to a clear and persistent breach of our responsible investment policy is simply too high if we remain invested.
“Exclusion is the last tool in our toolbox. If we are not ready to use it, we have no leverage when as an investor we try to influence companies to change course in these kinds of cases.”
According to AkademikerPension, investigations into the Budapest-based carrier highlighted how the company has refused to recognise the right to unionise, dismissing staff because of their union affiliation.
In 2020, Wizz Air’s boss Jozsef Varadi caused quite the stir when he admitted he was against unions as they were “killing the business”.
The airline rebutted this morning to accusations, saying it considers its employees its best asset.
“Wizz Air takes the engagement with its employees very seriously and we are confident that our structures and processes that have been in place to support open and transparent engagement are working extremely well, including our people council, which provides a forum for employees to discuss important issues, frequent employee engagement surveys and a regular “Floor Talks” programme which allows for a regular two-way dialogue with our chief executive,” said a company spokesperson.
“Additionally, we recently formed a sustainability and culture committee for the board all with a view to dedicating even more focus on environment and people issues.”
In December, AkademikerPension alongside other 13 investors such UK fund Ardevora Asset Management called out the airline, urging to let its people unionise, City A.M. reported.
“Recognising workers’ freedom to form and join unions is not only a legal and moral responsibility of the employer, but also an important risk mitigation strategy,” the letter said.
“To remedy our concerns, we therefore encourage Wizz Air to publicly and formally recognise employees’ rights to form and join unions; and commit to non-discrimination on the basis of union membership.”