In the run up to the 31st Anniversary of the Bhopal Disaster, public service union UNISON wrote an official letter to Dow Chemical, at its UK headquarters, urging it to do the right thing for Bhopal. General Secretary Dave Prentis urged Dow to recognise both its legal and its moral obligations. The letter, dated 25th November, reads as follows:
Dear Mr Antuna and other directors
On behalf of UNISON’s 1.3 million members in public services in the UK, I am writing to call on Dow Chemical to finally accept liability for the Bhopal disaster. You have it in your gift to help the new generations of Bhopal residents who continue to suffer more than three decades after the appalling events of 1984.
Dow Chemical has continued to reject liability because Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) owned the plant at the time of the disaster. This claim of non-responsibility is a fallacy as your company has accepted liability in other cases involving UCC, most notably when Dow Chemical bought UCC in 2001. Your company resolved UCC liabilities by settling the asbestos claim against UCC in the US dating back to 1972, therefore there is a precedent for Dow Chemical accepting liability for UCC’s historical negligence.
As we approach the 31st anniversary of the disaster on 2/3 December, I urge you to adhere to international law by accepting ‘successor liability’ and taking responsibility for the environmental and health damage Union Carbide caused in Bhopal.
Your company will forever be associated with the disastrous events of 1984. You have an opportunity to resolve this by working with Bhopal survivor groups and the Indian government to properly compensate the victims, including those who were born after the disaster; to clean up the contaminated areas, including the water table; to build health facilities and to support the people of Bhopal.
The UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights state that companies should act with due diligence, and address any negative impacts as a result of their activities. This, together with successor liability, places an onus on Dow Chemical to act to remedy a wrong perpetrated over 30 years ago. Please be guided by legal as well as moral obligations to stop the ongoing nightmare, and to give hope to people who have suffered for far too long.
We thank UNISON for their continued support of the Bhopal campaign.