Schlumberger faces employee backlash in Russia over draft cooperation

According to internal documents and people familiar with the matter, Schlumberger’s Russian-based oilfield service company has begun to receive military draft notices via work. The company does not allow remote employment to avoid mobilization.

According to sources, Schlumberger’s cooperation in delivering military call-ups to authorities and refusing to allow Russian staff to work abroad has sparked a backlash. These people view Schlumberger’s actions as tacit support for the war in Ukraine. Human rights groups are monitoring the company’s response to these concerns.

According to the advocacy group Business & Human Rights Resource Centre which monitors corporate performance in human rights issues, Russian law requires that companies assist with delivering the summons to employees.

Olivier Le Peuch, Schlumberger’s Chief Executive, stated in April that the company was monitoring developments in Ukraine closely and was hopeful for a rapid cessation. Schlumberger, however, decided to stay, unlike many of its customers and peers.

Schlumberger spokesperson stated that “The local leadership team manages an incredibly complicated and difficult situation.” He added that managers are required to “comply with local laws and regulations, especially if failure could pose additional risk to our local employees.”

According to the spokesperson from the United States, Schlumberger has left Russia’s employment policy decisions up to local managers. International sanctions “does not allow the U.S. and E.U. to exercise their rights in relation to Russia’s employment policies,” said the spokesperson for the U.S.-based spokesperson. The spokesperson stated that individuals cannot provide consultation or instructions to Russia on employment practices.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree adding troops to its military in the face of heavy troop casualties in Ukraine. This decree allowed the defense ministry to set the number of call-ups and caused thousands of Russians to flee to escape conscription.

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre sought information from Schlumberger and other non-Russian businesses with operations in the country about their handling of the mobilisation. Schlumberger did not respond to the group as of Thursday. However, two of those who did, Novo Nordisk and drug maker Roche Holding, said that they had requested military deferments in order to protect their employees.

Roche, which employs over 800 Russians, stated that it had requested exemptions from military service. Roche declined to comment on any draft status of employees.

Novo Nordisk stated that it had sought deferments through the pharmaceutical trade association. It also claimed that no employees were conscripted or received orders from authorities.

The U.S. State Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the military mobilization. The spokesperson stated that companies should expect that their operations will become more difficult as the terrain becomes less welcoming to western companies.

Schlumberger did not disclose how many Russian workers it has, but people familiar with the matter claimed that its Russia Business Unit employs over 9,000 people, which is around 10% of the company’s global workforce.

According to Reuters, dozens of Russian workers have fled the country.

Schlumberger stated that its Russian management team was working tirelessly with clients and the government to assess all exemptions for employees within the existing legal framework.

Exxon Mobil Corp has provided information about past contracts it had with Russian state oil producers Rosneft (and Gazprom Neft) and Exxon Mobil Corp to work in Russia. Exxon has cancelled its Russian investment and is looking to exit.

Baker Hughes and Halliburton, rivals to Schlumberger, are selling or having sold their Russian oilfield services units.

Weatherford International, which announced in March that it had placed a stop to oil services companies from shipping to Russia and stopped new investments, still maintains a presence within the country. A spokesperson declined to comment to discuss how the company is handling the military mobilization.

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