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Unocal Does Not Use Forced Labor

November 08, 1998

The story on the recent Department of Labor report concerning labor practices in Burma ["U.S. Bolsters Labor Charge Against Unocal," Oct. 23] gives undeserved visibility to a seriously biased and deliberately misleading discussion of the Yadana natural gas pipeline project, in which Unocal is an investor.

I can assure you that Unocal does not, has not and will not tolerate the use of forced labor on any of its projects, as this report so falsely and irresponsibly implies.

Two years ago, the U.S. State Department issued a report on human rights in Burma that contradicts the Labor Department's "findings" about the Yadana Project. The State Department report noted that "during 1996 there were repeated allegations that forced labor was used on a project to build a pipeline across the Tenasserim Region. The preponderance of the evidence indicates that the pipeline project has paid its workers at least a market wage."

It is a mystery to me how the Labor Department report, prepared "in consultation with" the State Department, could fail to acknowledge this finding or even cite this report. This is especially strange given that the Department of Labor admits that it "chose not to proceed with its visit to Burma."

We have carefully reviewed the labor practices followed by the project operator, Total, the French energy company. We have sent our own fact-finding teams to the pipeline area. Two noted human rights experts have visited the project and the nearby villages. Several U.S. Embassy officials have done the same. None has ever called our attention to even a scintilla of evidence that any forced labor has been used on the project.

The authorship and research methods of the Labor Department report are highly questionable. In fact, in an effort to tie alleged labor abuses in other parts of Burma to the Yadana project, the document relies on insinuation and innuendo typical of the worst kind of "witch hunt."

Critics of our investment in Yadana have repeatedly failed to provide credible evidence of labor abuses on the project. Instead, they repeat their false and outrageous charges again and again in hopes that someone will eventually believe them. Endless repetition does not make them true.

Unocal is proud of the benefits provided to the people of Myanmar (Burma) by its investment in the Yadana project. We have created high-paying jobs for thousands of workers who are happy to have them. We have supported a wide variety of educational, medical and economic programs for 30,000 local villagers who live near the pipeline route. And we are developing a major energy infrastructure project that will promote peace and prosperity throughout the Myanmar-Thailand region.

ROGER C. BEACH

Chairman and CEO

Unocal Corp.

El Segundo

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