Operationalising human rights due diligence through global framework agreements
During the last two decades, global union federations (GUFs) have negotiated global framework agreements (GFAs) with more than 100 multinational enterprises (MNEs). GFAs establish an ongoing relationship between MNEs and GUFs and regulate labour standards and industrial relations worldwide within the signatory companies. MNEs and GUFs recognise each other as partners and are responsible for the negotiation, implementation and monitoring of these agreements.
GFAs strengthen the enabling rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining within the companies’ operations and supply chains. The mechanisms and institutions created by GFAs can supplement unilateral company-driven human rights due diligence processes. In particular, they allow identifying and assessing human rights risks, track the implementation and effectiveness of measures taken by companies and provide non-governmental operational-level grievance and remediation mechanisms.
Not including GFAs renewed or extended during this period
International instruments and principles, such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), consider GFAs a social dialogue tool that can contribute to companies’ human rights due diligence processes as they are a product of negotiations and ongoing consultations between enterprises, global and national trade unions.
Social dialogue and human rights due diligence mechanisms are complementary as both are process-orientated and require ongoing consultations, meaning they can also act in a preventive manner and not only in response to reported cases of human rights violations.
GFAs increasingly include references to human rights due diligence processes. An analysis of the latest generation of GFAs reveals a clear trend toward a more comprehensive inclusion of references to the UNGP, the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (MNE Declaration) and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises which all request companies to implement human rights due diligence processes in their business operations and global supply chains.
Société Générale–UNI Global Union: Involving trade unions in human rights due diligence
In February 2019, the French MNE, Société Générale, and UNI Global Union renewed their GFA. In line with the provisions of the agreement and ahead of its publication, Société Générale started to consult UNI Global Union about the company’s duty of vigilance plan and agreed to re-examine the data sources of the plan in 2022 based on the Union feedback.
UNI Global Union will continue to exercise its stakeholder role in the process of the 2022 duty of vigilance plan, to be published in 2023. Société Générale has made a commitment to the Global Deal to respect the UNI Global Union’s role as defined in the GFA.
The new agreement improved upon the previous version in several important ways and reaffirmed Société Générale’s commitment to social dialogue, freedom of association and collective bargaining. It has provided a platform to work together on due diligence and ensure workers have a voice in the process.
In March 2022, the Belgian MNE, Solvay, and IndustriALL Global Union renewed their GFA. The agreement’s updated preamble states that the bargaining partners see the agreement as a part of the company’s response to binding human rights due diligence regulations at the national and international level.
The GFA stipulates that:
- Solvay will create working group to analyse labour rights in Solvay suppliers, hosted by the Solvay Global Forum.
- The working group will conduct a risk analysis to identify potential human rights risks in Solvay’s supply chain.
Social dialogue is the cornerstone of our Group’s beliefs – it is precious to me and the company. During the last few years, we have created a high level of transparency, maturity and trust and this relationship and now we can look forward to the next stages of the Group's development – because good social dialogue and being profitable go hand in hand.
The Solvay Global Forum (SGF) was first established in 2017 as a voluntary body dedicated to maintaining and fostering a global-level, constructive social dialogue. In 2022, it was decided to make the SGF a permanent body of Solvay.
SGF is composed of ten employee representatives and includes workers’ representatives from Solvay’s production sites from different regions around the world.
In addition, the bargaining partners jointly monitor the implementation of the entire agreement via two annual monitoring missions to Solvay sites worldwide. Contracts will be suspended if suppliers fail to remedy human rights and environmental abuses following warnings.
Solvay has a long tradition of promoting and protecting its employees. Through the Global Framework Agreement with IndustriAll, Solvay takes responsibility for a humane future and wants to contribute to solving the challenges of the 21st century.
Identifying, preventing and assessing risks and impacts: The consultation processes created by GFAs can help to build an ongoing process of dialogue between unions and enterprises and can be a useful tool for identifying, assessing and preventing human rights risks, mitigating adverse impacts and tracking the effectiveness of the measures taken.
Monitoring supply chains: GFAs can help companies track and follow up on developments on the ground when engaging in human rights due diligence in their global supply chains, particularly in countries where workers’ rights to organise are not respected or where governance and the rule of law are weak. Trade unions can provide information on suppliers and on operations of the company, and monitor the effectiveness of due diligence processes.
Implementing grievance mechanisms and enabling access to remedies: GFAs can be 'early warning systems' and provide non-governmental operational-level grievance mechanisms, particularly for violations of the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining.
Building human rights risk-management capacity at the local level: Many agreements include measures to improve human rights due diligence and create a conducive environment for trade union development in global supply chains because these conditions facilitate social dialogue, which is essential for the effective implementation of GFAs.
Ensuring ongoing processes and continuous improvement: GFAs are not one-off initiatives and can act in a preventative manner and not simply in response to reported cases of abuse. In addition, by ensuring the permanent involvement of trade unions and employee representatives, they create an ongoing human rights due diligence process.
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