High -Level Segment of Environment Policy Committee
OECD Environment Outlook: EPOC

"Integration of Social & Environmental Concerns"
4 April, 2000 - Paris, France

Trade Union Advisory Committee to OECD (TUAC)

OVERALL RESPONSE: Overall, TUAC welcomes the progress made in the Outlook papers to integrate social issues within the proposed strategies. We feel very positive direction has been taken by EPOC in promoting the three pillars of sustainable development (i.e. economic, environmental and social dimensions) in a unified way. In general we are confident that the Social-Environmental interface paper provides a good framework to commence work in this important area and that the four objectives outlined in the Framework and Basic Elements paper provide an excellent starting point for integrating the issues. We believe that the role of the nation state as (as outlined in Table 3 of the 1st document) should include responsibilities for setting social objectives and targets as part of the sustainable development implementation. 

POPULATION AND POVERTY CONCERNS: The Outlook process, however, could be strengthened by reviewing the assumptions it makes about population increases and to clarify how its inclusion of the social dimension in the Outlook process must be linked to poverty alleviation programs and to employment and employment creation. Although the EPOC papers recognise the importance of lowering population increases, they seem to view them as a immutable and this should be questioned (1). If population and fertility increases are the source of so many future problems, described by the draft outlook papers, then links must be encouraged to identify how OECD's work in all fields of activity, including the social dimension of sustainable development, might be made to address this problem. Since there is a direct relationship of decreasing fertility rates with poverty alleviation, this should become a social priority for the OECD. The objective should be to help reduce world fertility rates by addressing poverty, both within OECD countries and internationally. 

 EMPLOYMENT & EMPLOYMENT TRANSITION: The employment issue is mentioned in the various papers (i.e related to climate change, rural poverty, quality of life, human health, and employment effects of social issues). This a positive step forward, especially as a means of promoting poverty alleviation. However, summaries of general employment/unemployment trends only provide a starting point. The objective should be to replace theoretically-driven net employment analyses with concrete job gain/loss reviews related to specific sectors or implementation measures. Simple net employment analyses such as that must be supplemented with information that reports actual employment shifts that result from environmental degradation as well as the from the implementation of sustainable development plans (2) The impact of programmes related to employment income, working conditions, organising trade unions, employment equality provisions, access to individual and social health benefits, livelihood benefits (e.g. vacation and retirement protection), and social protection benefits (e.g. unemployment and social welfare) must be key considerations and child or forced labour must be prohibited under any circumstance. The overall aim should be to promote stability and optimal conditions of employment. 'Employment displacement' indicators for member countries should seek to understand and address the adequacy of programmes for displaced workers (e.g., training & education, compensation and re-employment) as well as identify the financial instruments and other measures needed to provide support for equitable employment transition. The OECD analyses should also help identify gaps in information and research needed for comprehensive employment policy development. It must also recognize that plant closures are not the only possible source of unemployment. Whilst measures to promote resource efficiency, discussed in the fifth paper, can create employment, they can also eliminate jobs. 

 PUBLIC HEALTH, WORKPLACES & ENVIRONMENTAL DEMOCRACY: The workplace environment should be understood as forming part of the broader community environment. The need for this was articulated in the recent WHO Declaration at the 3rd Ministerial Conference held last June in London (3). Health & Safety strategies and structures should be developed and utilised in the Outlook models for implementing social objectives related to public health. Workplace fatalities (4), diseases and illness are a barometer of social well-being, and must be monitored and reported as a means of evaluating progress on cleaner and safer production, waste management, and the handling of toxic substances. Special efforts should be made to identify workplace factors that contribute to public health risks or disease and to design and implement measures to eliminate or reduce them. Similarly, the right of access to public information should be broadly interpreted, as the WHO Declaration emphasises (5), to mean that workers should have similar rights to workplace information relating to both workplace and community health. Similarly, promoting public participation in decision making should equally apply to worker participation in workplace decision-making. 
 Joint worker/employer processes and structures should be the basis of workplace decision making. In particular, the efficacy of joint occupational workplace health, safety and environment (OHSE) committees and cooperation have been well-established, and should be promoted as the basis for worker education and training programs. As a start, the right of workers to OHSE workplace information, the right to refuse work which poses a threat to health, safety and environment, and the right to participate must be legally protected. 

 WORKPLACE INDICATORS AND HUMAN CAPITAL: The recent OECD Publication, "Frameworks to measure Sustainable Development" suggests the importance of integrating the value of human capital within sustainable development frameworks Workplaces (6), workers and work processes are at the centre of production-consumption patterns. There is a need for workplace indicators of change and for the OECD to link its analyses and work to the actual day-to-day activity of workplace production, and to the nature of work itself (7). The exclusion of 'workplaces' or 'workers/employees' in the OECD terms of reference has the effect of removing from review (and hence, from recommended changes) those factors in production that both determine and result from the relationship between workers and employers. The involvement of workers, with the employers, and how this could be harnessed to bring about desired change must become a focus of attention. Such a perspective assumes a fundamental role for trade unions (especially in training, education and coordination of programs across sectors), working with employer organisations to achieve targets, in the workplace and in the broader community. 
 Recognition of Freedom of Association and the Right to Organise are fundamental principles, which safeguard worker participation. Workplace actions should become a central feature of OECD's implementation measures. Recognising the human capital of workers, has implications for the success of meeting social goals within sustainable development plans.

DEVELOPING A NEW WORKPLACE CULTURE OF COOPERATION: More and better forms of cooperation are needed for workplace implementation of change. The 5th paper on 'Resource Efficiency', rightly focuses on resource management and efficiency issues as a conceptual framework for action. The involvement of workers in monitoring, record-keeping, evaluating and reporting of enterprise activities will become necessary to address issues from the 2nd paper on 'Basic Elements' and for social issues of sustainable development. This is important for two reasons. First, there will be limited success in meeting the 2nd objective set out in the Basics Elements paper (i. e. the special focus on the transport, agriculture and energy sectors), unless workers, trade unions and employers develop common approaches to workplace change. The second reason, is that meeting many of the current sustainable development targets implies that workers and consumers, world-wide, must also change their personal consumption habits, be they related to energy, food, lifestyles or the buying of manufactured goods. Involving workers in production improvements, must become a springboard to changes in workers' awareness, which spills over into changes at home and in their communities. However, appropriate training and education methods should be employed. In other words, workplace involvement must be made to lead to higher community awareness about the environment or sustainable development issues. This can result in more sustained political support for public programs which aim to address issues, such as the social dimension of sustainable development.

 STRENGTHENING SOCIAL STANDARDS AND REGULATIONS WITH VOLUNTARY INDUSTRY INITIATIVES AND AGREEMENTS (VIAS): The Outlook papers introduce VIAs in a healthy context, as part of a mix of solutions as a means of strengthening capacity to meet social aims and targets, including through regulation and standard setting. However, the issue of transparency and verification of VIA's still remain unaddressed. The OECD is encouraged to continue its analyses of voluntary agreements, with a particular focus on the verification of performances and to help create a framework to guide the development of VIA's. There is a large body of VIA's in the world which aim or claim to address a wide spectrum of social issues (e.g child labour codes of conducts). The OECD should assume some responsibility in strengthening these, where possible and in encouraging the uses of VIA's under certain conditions:

- VIA's should supplement or strengthen government-based regulations and standards, or a lack of them, and they should show how they serve this purpose. A recent OECD report, "Voluntary Approaches for Environmental Policy" has found little empirical evidence to show the effectiveness of VIA's for environmental protection. Negotiated VIA's, linked in some way to regulation, are the strongest type to date. These types of VIA should be encouraged for addressing social issues. 

- The scope of the OECD's review of VIA's should be broadened to encompass sustainable development, not just environment. The uses of voluntary arrangements as tools to address the social and environmental interface questions of the EPOC papers, should be better understood and their uses promoted in line with the conditions where VIAs can be called upon to strengthen standards and practice identified by the PUMA review on regulatory reform. OECD's work on VIA's should build upon the current UN CSD multistakeholder review of VIA's. CSD99 adopted recommendations for an eventual review of VIA's and these should be incorporated in OECD's work. 

- Almost all VIA's seek some sort of change to workplace performance. Workers and employers should be called upon to develop joint monitoring and reporting of VIA's progress and effectiveness, including for issues related to the social dimension of sustainable development. This should become a basis for capacity building everywhere, including for workers in developing countries. VIA's must never undermine minimum standards based on agreed environmental, economic and social indicators. The body of international agreements, dealing with social issues, including the basic human and economic freedoms as enshrined in international Conventions and Protocols that aim to promote equality and discourage discrimination, must not be undermined by VIA's.

- Education and training is needed to improve on current workplace monitoring, record-keeping, and reporting mechanisms, especially for workplaces, where such a capacity does not currently exists. VIA's should become a training ground for education. In this regard, lessons should be drawn from experiences with collective agreements as models for implementation of VIA's and the training of workers. Collective agreements address particular workplace problems faced by specific worker groups and are used to remedy a wide range of problems dealing with sustainable development issues, including for the environment and social dimensions. Collective agreements can help maximise the educational opportunities in the workplace over a host of issues, including for the implementation of VIA’s, themselves.

 SOCIAL TRANSITION & TRAINING: The proposed Outlook reports recognise the need for "smooth transition", for new member countries and the need for certain steps to be taken to ensure proper implement of key objectives. There is a need to understand how similar transition processes could be developed and employed as a means of addressing specific social aims (example, employment, social security, disaster relief, emergency planning, to name a few). An attempt should be made to predict the nature and scope of the need for social transition programs and to assess the financial and economic measures required to support them (e.g. for compensation, training and education, industry, and government planning)(8). Alleviation of poverty, reduction of fertility rates, the security of livelihoods and provision of adequate food, shelter, water, health & welfare, social security, sanitation, education, transport and equal access to maternity rights would be initial considerations. Human impacts due to environmental events (e.g. climate change) will likely have tremendous social consequences that are not currently factored into estimates for predicting the costs and benefits of proposed mitigation programs. This can also be said for the development of biotechnology.

 TRADE UNIONS AS STAKEHOLDERS: The OECD must explicitly encourage trade unions to co-ordinate the efforts of workers for workplace implementation of sustainable development plans. This is important because workers in isolation are not in a position to fully participate, without effective representation, information and understanding provided by their unions. Forward-looking employers have long since recognised the value of collective representational groupings. The Outlook reports do recognise trade unions in certain OECD processes. OECD countries must be encouraged to focus on industrial relations as a supportive mechanism for implementing sustainable development plans. Employer/trade union partnerships should be vigorously promoted in accordance with adopted indicators and the Governments should play a role within a well-defined regulatory framework, involving the public sector to coordinate and enforce agreed standards. Multistakeholder processes for decision-making, information sharing and participation should become a trademark of OECD's sustainable development strategies. Recognition of Freedom of Association and the Right to Organise are fundamental to ensuring worker participation and the results must be made to develop similar practices for implementing social objectives.

DE-COUPLING GROWTH: ENTERPRISE TARGETS & ASSESSMENTS: De-Coupling growth from increased use of resources is to be encouraged (i.e. 1st Objective in the Basic Elements' paper) but the social implications, must be properly understood and transition must be planned for. The need for de-coupling and to address resource management objectives in 5th Outlook paper, however, implies improving the effectiveness of enterprise monitoring and reporting. Simulations of theoretical models to assess and predict trends have specific purposes and these can be made to supplement periodic, or 3rd party monitoring. Monitoring and workplace data, however, must be encouraged to reflect actual and ongoing events within production units. For this to take place, workers and employers must be called upon to engage in a joint process of target identification and a program of workplace monitoring, record keeping, evaluation and implementation for workplace change. Initially such a program should focus on promoting efficient uses water & energy and proper handling of wastes & toxic substances. Efficient uses of resources must be built around involvement of workers and trade unions(9) with employers. Developing such processes for the purposes of implementing the 5th 'Resource Efficiency' paper should be considered as a  precursor to capacity build for similar monitoring of issues related to the social dimension.

COOPERATION WITH NON-MEMBER COUNTRIES: Environmental Performance Reviews outlined in the 5th Objective (2nd paper) must seek to integrate workplace indicators of change, which link worker health and safety to community environment, everywhere, including in developing countries. Of greatest importance of for OECD countries to recognise the impact of their actions (financial, trade or otherwise) on poverty indicators which impact on population fertility rates. Capacity building for the monitoring and reporting of workplaces in developing countries must be anticipated, by recognising the real need for new and extended infrastructures, which support the adequate livelihood of workers. This should be understood within the context of the discussion of "International Aspects" of the 4th Outlook paper on social-environmental interface. That paper makes mention of:
? "the absence of a level playing field concerning health and safety standards (environmental dumping) workers in competing industries of developed countries may see themselves confronted with induced adjustment pressures (a concern under NAFTA, within Europe, within Asia)."
OECD is in a position to help the development of such a playing field by encouraging its members to ratify and abide to current international agreements, e.g. ILO Conventions and Recommendations, which address certain issues.

BIOTECHNOLOGY AND GMO'S (10): Biotechnology is already at work and expanding rapidly in many industrial sectors. For this reason it should figure more prominently in the Outlook papers, especially in their treatment of agriculture and biological diversity. The health and safety implications on workers involved in production processes and distribution are still largely neglected, especially as these relate to broader sustainable development goals of communities. It is imperative that higher levels of core funding be made available for independent research by public sector scientists and research funding must be matched by a more consistent and rigorous approach to the use of scientific advice in policy-making by governments. However, the expected growth in biotechnology will bring more demands for industry accountability, and transparency. Promoting worker and trade union involvement in industrial decision making over biotechnology is a necessary prerequisite. Not only because food and public safety would be enhanced by this involvement but that it can also be a basis of support for public transition programs aimed at addressing the social implications of biotechnology. This new technology must be harnessed to creating jobs and reducing poverty and must not be allowed to contribute to problems of development through for example fostering population increases. The OECD should seek to strengthen the UN Convention on Biological Diversity encourage its ratification.


(1) World Fertility Rates: OECD says there will be about 7.5 billion by 2020 and U.N forecasts for a medium-fertility scenario indicate that world population is likely to peak at 8.9 billion by 2050. It is also estimated that world food needs in developing countries will almost double during the same period. Of significance is the UNEP Global Environment Outlook, 2000 which states that, "currently, the highest fertility rates tend to be found in countries suffering from poverty, food insecurity, and natural resource degradation". It adds, that "falling fertility rates are correlated with rising incomes and improvements in such areas as health care, employment, and women's education". The implications of this seem clear. The UN General Secretary, in his report to the CSD8 on Agriculture and Rural Development, says that: "…hunger can be eliminated, with the right policies and measures that promote sustainable agriculture and support comprehensive rural development schemes that, inter alia, improve access to land, combat poverty, create employment and reduce rural emigration." 

(2) Research for Change: Analyses of concrete, real-life job impacts should become the basis of determining policies for industry, labour market and regional developments, as well as education and training. Furthermore, policy conclusions should not be restricted to narrow issues of labour market flexibility as currently promoted by the OECD Job Strategy. More emphasis needs to be given to the issue of managing change, within a proper regulatory framework, as opposed to a mere understanding of social and economic trends.

(3) Occupational Health & Environment Links: WHO Ministerial Declaration (June, 1999) said: "We recognise the importance of instituting workplace measures to meet public health needs and goals, and the right of workers to be involved in the decision making process on those measures. We will promote good practice in health, environment and safety management in enterprises, in collaboration with the stakeholders …"

(4) Deaths and Illness: Unsustainable forms of production, throughout the world, result in more than 1.1 million workers who die each year (almost 3,300 per day), nearly double the deaths due to war, and triple due to HIV/AIDS. Of 335,000 deaths that are due to occupational accidents, 12,000 claim the lives of children. 325,000 are due to occupational diseases, most because of hazardous substances, with asbestos being the largest single killer, claiming about 100,000 lives per year. Over 160 million new injuries and work-related diseases are reported per year. 

(5) Workplace Information: WHO Ministerial Declaration also says: "We recognise the rights of workers to be informed of occupational and environmental health hazards in the workplace, and of the public to be informed of hazards posed to the community by the activities of enterprises".

(6) Human Capital is defined by the OECD as "the knowledge, skills and competencies and other attributes embodied in individuals that are relevant to economic activity". Further, "Human capital focuses on the economic behaviour of individuals, especially on the way their accumulation of knowledge and skills enables them to increase their productivity and their earnings - and in so doing to increase the productivity and wealth of the societies they live in".

(7) Workplace Indicators: Affiliates of TUAC (Trade Union Advisory Committee), ICFTU (International Confederation of Free Trade Unions) and ITS’(International Trade Secretariats) have cooperated with the ILO/ACTRAV (International Labour Organisation) to produce a Worker Education and Training Kit on the seven sustainable development indicators, as set out above. The aim is to capacity build for environmental action among workers and their trade unions. Each of the indicators relate to existing ILO standards. 

(8) Financing Transition: Given the likely scale and nature of future transitional measures, it needs to be recognised that public finances will not be sufficient to meet the needs. 

(9) The Involvement of Workers is important for two reasons. First, involving workers is the only way to ensure that continuous, day-to-day workplace monitoring take place (as opposed to periodic analyses performed by consulting firms) on key environmental issues. Second, involving workers in production changes, provides the basis of education and training which can lead to changes to workers’ personal and community consumer habits. The OECD should seek to ensure the evolution toward the continuous involvement and education of workers.

(10) Trade Unions & Food Safety: TUAC room document, Biotechnology and Other Aspects of Food Safety, Consultation with Civil Society, Paris, 20 November, 1999.

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Capturé par MemoWeb à partir de http://www.tuac.org/news/nepoc042000.htm  le 25/03/02
Capturé par MemoWeb à partir de http://www.tuac.org/news/nepoc042000.htm  le 25/03/02