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November 13, 2018

Global union identifies GFA best practice

A meeting held at the International Labour Organization (ILO) last week has identified ways to strengthen global framework agreements (GFA) and how best to implement them. 

By Beth Wright

A meeting held at the International Labour Organization (ILO) last week has identified ways to strengthen global framework agreements (GFA) and how best to implement them. 

During the event, which took place on the 8-9 November in Geneva, Switzerland, Claudia Rahman, co-chair of the IndustriAll Global Union GFA working group, said the implementation of such agreements must have a local agenda.

“A GFA should prevent violations of workers’ rights and not simply be a remedy to violations that have already happened,” she said, adding that GFAs need to be “integrated into the operational activities of a multinational company and into the management system”.

Designed to protect the interests of workers employed in all operations of the multinational companies who sign them, GFAs are negotiated at a global level between trade unions and companies. They establish the best possible standards on trade union rights, on health and safety, and on the labour relations principles adhered to by the company in its global operations, regardless of the standards existing in a particular country.

IndustriAll Global Union currently has 49 global agreements, which are negotiated at a global level between trade unions and multinational companies, and serve to protect the interests of workers across a company’s supply chain. 

The GFA working group, which includes representatives from all continents and sectors, reviews IndustriAll’s proposed and current GFAs, and provides comments and recommendations on GFAs to the secretariat and executive.

IndustriAll’s general secretary, Valter Sanches, said company management and unions require training on GFA implementation, while unions must monitor GFAs.

Participants at the meeting recounted how the agreements are being used to assist organising, with case studies presented from the textile and garment sector in Bangladesh and Turkey.

In addition, the meeting held discussions on the strategic use of GFAs in reaching trade union objectives through buzz-groups. Involvement of host unions, organising in supply chains through GFAs and roles of different actors in GFA processes were elaborated and some conclusions were drawn up.

It was suggested GFAs could make use of strong language on due diligence, outlined in the ILO’s guidelines for multinational enterprises, and present it to companies as language that has already been agreed at the tripartite level. The working group was also called to think about how to better use ILO tools and mechanisms, smartly and politically, to get strong agreements.

“IndustriAll Global Union has made significant progress in its policies and practices with global framework agreements and the working group has played an important role,” said Kemal Özkan, IndustriAll’s assistant general secretary, who is in charge of the working group. 

“However, we still have a long way to go in our global mission to advance the rights and working conditions of our members on the ground, particularly at multinational companies. IndustriAll will continue to be a champion in the development of global labour relations, particularly through global framework agreements.”

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