JULY 2007


TUAC President calls for OECD examination of the role of hedge funds and private equity in current financial instability 

Minimum wages:  variations across countries suggest they are not a barrier to job creation

ITUC and TUAC Express Opposition to Current Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement

OECD: Impact of globalisation makes workers increasingly vulnerable

Trade unions call for more effective implementation of OECD MNE Guidelines by  National Contact Points

Labour Law and Industrial Relations reform in Korea: An unfinished agenda

Union leaders welcome G8 support for ILO decent work agenda but say that leaders are off track on their commitments for aid to Africa 

Outcome of the Meeting of the OECD Council at Ministerial Level  

Training material on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

User's Guide on OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises now Available in Several Language Editions

Global Union Research Network (GURN) website

Union anti-corruption Web-site


Archives : 2002  2003 2004  2005  2006  2007 

TUAC President calls for OECD examination of the role of hedge funds and private equity in current financial instability

(22 August 2007)

In a letter to OECD Secretary-General Ángel Gurría, John Sweeney, TUAC and AFL-CIO President has called for the OECD to undertake a horizontal consultation on the role of hedge funds and private equity investors in the current financial instability. The letter notes that “Central banks are intervening aggressively to maintain liquidity and calm capital markets and hopefully they will succeed. But, whether successful or not, these actions leave unaddressed the central role of leverage in our financial markets and the closely related issues of the transparency, governance, regulation, and taxation of hedge funds and private equity.”

To read the letter in full, click here :

Minimum wages:  variations across countries suggest
they are not a barrier to job creation

A minimum wage is defined as the lowest hourly, daily or monthly wage that employers may legally pay to employees or workers. First enacted in Australia in the late 19th century, minimum wage laws are now in force in a large number of industrialized countries. Almost two thirds of the OECD member countries have followed the Australian example and have introduced minimum wages. In Europe twenty Member States of the European Union do have a statutory national minimum wage; 14 of them are also members of the OECD. Other OECD member countries like Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Turkey have also introduced minimum wages. However, not all of them have got a statutory national minimum wage in place. In Canada for instance each province and territory has its own minimum wage. The lowest general minimum wage in force as of January 2007 in 3 of the provinces is C$7.00 (4,63 Euro) an hour.

Despite the fact that a number of countries have recently increased minimum wages, large variations across countries remain. In January 2007 the gross monthly minimum in the OECD area wage varied from 217 Euros in Slovakia to 1570 Euros in Luxembourg.

 Figure: Minimum wages in certain OECD countries 1)  

 1) January 2007, in Euro
Source: EuroStat, own calculations

The data presented in the Figure are in a striking contrast to the often stated assertion that minimum wages adversely impact employment. Countries with highest minimum wages, like the Netherlands, Australia, UK, Ireland and Luxembourg, are also among the countries with an outstanding employment performance.

ITUC and TUAC Express Opposition
 to Current Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement

On the occasion of the finalisation of preparations for signing a free trade agreement between South Korea and the U.S. on June 30, known as the KORUS-FTA, the ITUC together with the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) have joined their affiliates in Korea and the US in expressing their opposition to the agreement as it currently stands. 

The impending signature of the KORUS-FTA has brought about a strike this week by the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU), protesting against the agreement as part of a broad coalition of Korean groups in opposition to the KORUS-FTA.  Last year, both affiliates in Korea of  the  ITUC and TUAC, the FKTU and the KTUC, joined the AFL-CIO in the US in expressing their deep concern at the course of the KORUS negotiations.

Although the government has threatened to declare this strike of the KMWU illegal, the recent Committee on Freedom of Association of the ILO remained highly critical of the government of Korea for its continued repression of trade union rights.  The Committee emphasized the Government’s failure to fulfill the  commitment it had made to ratify Conventions 87 and 98 of the ILO when an ILO high-level tripartite mission visited Korea and reported to the Governing Body in 1998.

The ITUC considers that trade agreements should lead to the creation of decent jobs and development and provide for the protection of core labour standards.  Yet the provisions for protection of such standards in this agreement (known as the KORUS-FTA) remain far too limited to be readily put into operation.  While the agreement is reported to include a possible provision for fines in cases of violation of core labour standards, the maximum penalties stand to be much lower than those applicable in cases of commercial breaches of the agreement, and so risk to be ineffective.

Furthermore, in negotiating this agreement, neither government has evaluated the likely economic and social impact the deal will have on workers.  Yet it is likely, as has been highlighted by the International Metalworkers’ Federation to which the KMWU is affiliated, that if signed this free trade agreement will lead to an acceleration of capital mobility and financial speculation between Korea and the US, contributing to further  restructuring and driving down of wages, employment stability and working conditions.

The ITUC and TUAC are calling therefore for:

Postponement of the agreement until it has been redesigned so as to promote decent work and respect for core labour standards;

a full and public assessment of the economic and social impact of the FTA on workers in both countries;

safeguards for public services, workers’ rights, the environment and economic development;

Implementation in both the US and Korea of the ILO’s core labour standards and of the recommendations of the ILO Freedom of Association Committee to the governments of both countries. 


OECD: Impact of globalisation makes workers increasingly vulnerable

More open markets, global trade and investment don’t inevitably lead to greater prosperity and more jobs. Thus, workers and trade unions pointing to adverse effects of globalisation, in particular the loss of jobs, stagnating wages and increasing inequality, have good reasons to do so. New empirical evidence, assembled and analysed by the OECD Employment Outlook 2007 has revealed that fears about how globalisation is affecting OECD labour markets are not exaggerated. It was found that globalisation, in particular the rapid increase of imports from non-OECD countries and the expansion of international production networks, has become a “potentially important source of vulnerability for workers”. The data analysed suggest that the intensification of foreign competition has made jobs less stable by increasing the probability of job separations.

To read more, click here  

Trade unions call for more effective implementation of OECD MNE Guidelines by  National Contact Points

(Paris, 19-20 June 2007)

In preparation of the 2007 Annual Meeting of National Contact Points (NCPs), TUAC has submitted an analysis of NCPs focusing on the US, Dutch, French, Korean, UK and Japanese NCPs given that they have received almost two thirds of the more than 80 cases raised by trade unions under the OECD Guidelines for MNEs since 2000.

The NCPs in Japan, Korea and the US account for about one third of the cases submitted by trade unions. However, these NCPs have not managed to help resolve one single case to the satisfaction of the trade union raising the case.

The paper argues that the most effective NCPs are those that are tri- or quadripartite (ie they include unions, business and in some case NGOs).

To read the submission click here  

Labour Law and Industrial Relations reform in Korea:
An unfinished agenda

The decision of the OECD Council to terminate the monitoring mandate of the organisation’s Employment, Labour and Social Affairs Committee (ELSAC) on Korean labour law and industrial relations reform does not mean that reform of labour law in Korea has been completed. The Korean government has not fulfilled its commitment made at the country’s accession to the OECD, “to reform existing laws on industrial relations in line with internationally accepted standards, including those concerning basic rights such as freedom of association and collective bargaining”. Although peer pressure from the OECD on the basis of the monitoring mandate has been helpful in moving the reform agenda forward and has contributed to improving labour rights in Korea, important issues remain to be resolved before Korea can be said to have brought its practice and legislation in line with ILO core labour standards thus fulfilling its commitment given to the OECD on its accession. The ILO has stated clearly what still needs to be done – allow union pluralism at company level; give public officials the right to join trade unions that can negotiate terms and conditions of employment; and stop the arrests of trade unionists for normal trade union activities.

The invitation to the Korean Authorities by the OECD Council “to inform the ELSA Committee on the further implementation of labour law and industrial relations reform in the spring of 2010 or possibly earlier, after certain changes in labour law, currently governed by a moratorium, will have taken effect”, indicates that the OECD is expecting its members to comply fully with ILO core labour standards. It emphasizes also that the onus to comply with ILO core labour standards continues to lie with the Korean government. The invitation also reflects the wish of a large group of ELSAC delegates to be kept informed on further reform progress in Korea.

Union leaders welcome G8 support for ILO decent work agenda
but say that leaders are off track on their commitments for aid to Africa

8 June 2007

Whilst recognizing steps forward in addressing the social dimension of globalization taken by G8 leaders in Heiligendamm and in particular their support for “Decent Work” , trade unions have expressed concern at the continuing failure of governments to deliver on past commitments for aid to Africa and in particular HIV/AIDS commitments.

Guy Ryder, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) commented “in the same breath the G8 leaders have vaguely promised more money for HIV/AIDS sufferers they have retreated from the Gleneagles commitment to provide universal access to treatment in 2010. How can we believe that new commitments will be lived up to?” John Evans, General Secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD, said “the Summit Conclusions clearly represent a step forward in G8 commitment to a social dimension and possibly on tackling climate change, but we share deep concern at the failure to live up to past commitments on aid to Africa and the blocking by some G8 states of more transparency from Hedge Funds and Private Equity firms”. The issue is now how commitments will be followed up. The trade union delegation meeting Chancellor Merkel prior to the Summit meeting raised many of these issues. Global Unions will be seeking to follow these up in the weeks ahead. In particular TUAC will be seeking to ensure that the Heiligendamm process of dialogue between major emerging and developing countries and the G8 for which the OECD will provide a “platform” will ensure the effective involvement and voice of trade unions.

 To read the full evaluation click here

Outcome of the meeting of the OECD Council at Ministerial Level
valuation By the TUAC Secretariat

“Making globalisation equitable requires good policy not management of perceptions”

(Paris, 15-16 May 2007)

The 2007 OECD Ministerial Council, chaired by the Spanish Vice-Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Pedro Solbes together with the associated OECD Forum focussed on the theme “Innovation: Advancing the OECD Agenda for Growth and Equity”.

The decision taken with most immediate impact was to invite five countries, Chile, Estonia, Israel, Russia and Slovenia, to open negotiations to become full OECD members, a process which is expected to take at least two years. Ministers also called for strengthening OECD engagement with a range of large non-member countries, notably Brazil, India, Indonesia, China and South Africa with a view to possible membership. It is questionable how realistic membership of some of this latter group of countries is even over a medium term time horizon. Early membership of China would not be compatible with Ministers’ self-defined mission for the OECD of “promoting peace, stability, prosperity, and democratic values through sound economic policies and good governance”. Ministers also “invited the organisation to remain true to its founding vision and high standards”. TUAC will be working with our Global Unions partners to ensure that workers in these countries have a real voice in the discussions taking place at the international level and to ensure that respect for fundamental workers’ rights as defined by the ILO remains part of membership obligation. The Ministers also noted that there will be an enhanced relationship of the OECD with the G8 particularly regarding its relationship with the larger emerging economies. TUAC will be calling for an enhanced relationship between the OECD and the ILO.

The second main area of discussion reflected in the Ministers’ conclusions was the issue of globalisation. Here Ministers finally acknowledged that adjustment difficulties for workers may arise as a result of globalisation. However if, as the OECD Secretary-General wishes, the Organisation is to become the “hub of dialogue on globalisation” it must go further than simply recognising these problems and ensure that there is far more equity introduced into the global system of investment and trade through good domestic policy and effective international, social and environmental rules. The Ministers say that globalisation is inexorable, however, it can be directed and managed by appropriate regulation and good policy. The OECD must now give meaning to the word “equity” which appears in the Ministerial theme and look at the real distribution of costs and benefits of globalisation. Too often the Ministers’ conclusions appear to indicate that the main problem is “assessing and communicating the benefits of globalisation”. The conclusions do recognise in the context of the OECD Jobs Strategy that policies should provide “adequate jobs and income security to workers”. The debate on this issue formed a central part of the BIAC/TUAC consultations which is also referred to in the conclusions. The conclusions also comment on the discussions on the “political economy of reform”. They note that reforms are rarely painless, however, the real problem is the pain and benefits of reform are currently unjustly shared in most OECD countries. In the consultations TUAC called for reform to be handled through effective social dialogue. This is partly recognised when Ministers emphasize the need “to involve the social partners in reform efforts” in the conclusions. Whilst being relatively optimistic on the current economic outlook, the Ministers’ conclusions noted that “concerns were voiced with respect to energy prices, the role of hedge funds, the rich valuation of some types of assets and the evolution of current account imbalances”. The Ministers do not give clear indications of appropriate policy responses to these concerns nor do they acknowledge the need to strengthen the existing OECD tools such as the Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises.

The third main area in the Ministerial conclusions relates to the decision to launch a horizontal innovation strategy in the OECD. TUAC welcomes the acknowledgement by Ministers that innovation encompasses beside a technological dimension also a social dimension. This needs to be taken into account in the process of formulating an OECD Innovation Strategy. Beside a focus on evidence-based analysis, future work needs to open up an avenue for participatory approaches to examine how to give workers a “voice” in the innovation process. In order to facilitate innovation and change, the knowledge and experience of the workforce needs to be taken into account. Moreover, innovation must contribute to improving the quality of jobs.

TUAC will be closely monitoring and engaging our affiliates and Global Unions partners in the follow-up to these conclusions.

To read the Ministerial Conclusions, click here     

To read the Council Resolution on Enlargement and Enhanced Engagement, click here    

To read the TUAC written Statement, Click here   

To read the TUAC President Statement to the Ministers, Click here 

Training material on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

TUAC has with the support of the European Commission developed a training material on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises for European Works Councils.

It can be downloaded from this web site and is available in EnglishFrench, German and Czech.

For the published version contact :

Users' Guide on OECD Guidelines for Multinational 
Enterprises  Available in Several Language Editions

The TUAC Users' Guide to help trade unionists make use of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational  is available in 24 languages: including Arabic, Bahasa Indonesian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Estonian, French, Georgian, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean,  Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian,  Spanish, Thai and Turkish.

The Guidelines are OECD Government standards for corporate behaviour, which can help solve specific problems or create an environment for social dialogue. They apply to companies operating in or from any of the adhering countries.

To receive the printed version of the Guide, please, contact the TUAC Secretariat.

To read the PDF version  click here :Arabic, Chinese, EnglishFrenchGermanPortuguese, Serbe, Spanish  Thai

Global Union Research Network (GURN) website

The website of the Global Union Research Network (GURN) is now up and functioning.

GURN notably has the support of the ILO's bureau for workers' activities (ACTRAV) in addition to that of active bodies and members of the international labour movement.  The move to set up the network was specifically requested by the international labour movement during the ICFTU-TUAC Millennium debate.

GURN is a research response to the challenge of how to handle rapid economic and social changes through a globalisation process that is undermining existing regulations and arrangements without providing an adequate new regulatory framework.  The new network will strengthen links between trade unions and research institutions in order to improve the dissemination of knowledge, address knowledge gaps, initiate new research and stimulate international cooperation.  The aim is to produce systematic, tailor-made information in response to union needs, especially those originating in unions in developing countries and transition economies. TUAC is piloting the web page dealing with Corporate Governance issues.

To visit the GURN web page click here 

Union anti-corruption Web-site

UNICORN, the trade-union anti-corruption network, that is a joint initiative of TUAC, ICFTU and Public Services International has moved to the School of Social Sciences, based at Cardiff in the UK.

UNICORN has also a new web-site. Visit it at :

Le président du TUAC appelle l’OCDE à examiner le rôle des hedge funds et des fonds private equity dans le contexte actuel d’instabilité financière

(Paris, 22 août 2007)

Dans une lettre adressée à Angel Gurria, secrétaire général de l’OCDE, John Sweeney, président du TUAC et de l’AFL-CIO, a appelé à l’organisation par l’OCDE d’une consultation horizontale sur le rôle des hedge funds et des fonds private equity dans le cadre de l’instabilité financière actuelle. La lettre indique que « Les banques centrales sont intervenues énergiquement pour maintenir les niveaux de liquidités et pour rassurer les marchés de capitaux ; espérons qu’elles réussissent dans cette entreprise. Cependant, et quelle qu’en soit l’issue, ces interventions ne répondent ni à la question du rôle central que joue l’effet de levier sur nos marchés financiers, ni aux enjeux qui en découlent : la transparence, la gouvernance, la régulation et la fiscalité des hedge funds et des fonds private equity.  

 Pour lire la lettre :

Les dirigeants syndicaux accueillent favorablement le soutien du G8 au programme de l’OIT sur le travail décent mais déclarent que les dirigeants sont hors d’atteinte de leurs engagements en faveur de l’Afrique

Tout en reconnaissant les avancées des dirigeants du G8 à Heiligendamm sur le traitement de la dimension sociale de la mondialisation et en particulier le soutien à la notion de « travail décent », les syndicats ont faire part de leurs préoccupations quant à l’échec permanent des gouvernements à remplir leurs engagements en faveur de l’Afrique et en particulier leurs engagements concernant le VIH SIDA.

Pour Guy Ryder – Secrétaire Général de la Confédération Syndicale Internationale (CSI) « de la même manière que les dirigeants du G8 ont fait de vagues promesses financières pour les victimes du VIH SIDA, ils ont reculé face à l’engagement de Gleneagles d’assurer l’accès universel aux soins en 2010. Comment croire que ces nouveaux engagements seront tenus ? » Selon John Evans – Secrétaire Général de la Commission Syndicale Consultative auprès de l’OCDE « les conclusions du sommet représentent clairement une avancée du G8 en faveur d’une dimension sociale de la mondialisation et peut être aussi sur la changement climatique ; ceci étant nous partageons les préoccupations concernant l’échec des engagements en faveur de l’Afrique et le veto de certains Etats du G8 à toute transparence renforcée des fonds d’arbitrage hedge funds et des sociétés de capital-investissement private equity ». L’enjeu aujourd’hui est le suivi de ces engagements. La rencontre de la délégation syndicale avec la Chancelière Merkel en amont du Sommet a porté sur plusieurs de ces thèmes. Les syndicats internationaux Global Unions traiteront ces questions dans les semaines à venir. En particulier le TUAC veillera à une participation effective des syndicats dans le processus Heiligendamm de dialogue avec les principaux pays émergents et en développement pour lequel l’OCDE est chargé de mettre en place une « plate-forme ».

Pour lire l’évaluation complète :