NEWS 2000



In this section you will find TUAC policy statements, evaluations of the outcome of major OECD meetings, comments on OECD policy recommendations and OECD reports and press releases. 



TUAC-OECD Informal Meeting on Multinational Guidelines

                                                      (Paris, 18 December 2002)

In a meeting with the bureau of the OECD Committee on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises (CIME) on 18 December, TUAC representatives urged the need for more promotion of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. TUAC, through its project on the implementation of the Guidelines, together with affiliates and other labour organisations, has held a number of workshops and seminars to raise awareness of the Guidelines, yet the provisions still have too low a profile.

To read the TUAC Progress Report, click here  

Calling on OECD governments to increase their efforts to promote the Guidelines, TUAC pointed out the serious failure of many National Contact Points (NCPs) to deal with cases effectively and in a timely manner.  Trade unions have raised about 25 cases with NCPs, but only a few of these cases have been resolved or led to recommendations by NCPs.   TUAC drew particular attention to this failure at its plenary session on 21 November and issued statement.

At the informal meeting with CIME, TUAC also raised the issue of the United Nations Panel of Experts’ report on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  This report contains a list of 85 multinational enterprises considered by the Panel to be in breach of the OECD Guidelines.  TUAC called on CIME to ensure that the findings of the Panel are thoroughly investigated by NCPs. 

Finally, TUAC expressed concern at the growth of special economic zones, and the fact that OECD countries themselves were engaging in such practices.  It cited the law on Free Economic Zones recently adopted by the Republic of Korea as being inconsistent with the principle of the Guidelines. 


OECD negotiations on steel subsidies

TUAC joined senior delegates from OECD countries (such as the US, Japan, Korea and the European Union) and leading non-Members, including China, India, and Brazil, for informal consultation on the occasion of the OECD’s High-level meeting on steel, which was held in Paris on 18-19 December.

Discussions showed the OECD plans to move  ahead on a discipline to restrict steel subsidies, with broad support from the US and the EU.   The other part of the OECD’s work on steel – the reduction of capacity – looks as though it will remain an information-sharing exercise.

TUAC intervened to recall the International Metalworkers Federation position elaborated at their  Washington conference on steel which called for a multilateral agreement to eliminate subsidies while allowing governments to support the social costs of restructuring in a situation which had seen jobs in the steel industry cut by 50 per cent since the early 1980s. TUAC also reminded the meeting that markets needed common rules of the game in ensuring respect for workers’ fundamental rights.  OECD work on active labour market policies could usefully be integrated into these sectoral discussions.

TUAC-OECD Liaison Committee reviews issues and cooperation 

The regular TUAC-OECD Liaison Committee meeting on 22 November tackled two main questions:  The governance of globalisation and the OECD vocation;  and, secondly, it reviewed and assessed OECD key activities.

TUAC President John Sweeney, President of the American AFL-CIO, said the OECD was a unique forum for discussing challenges of public and private governance in which international labour unions play a major role.   But he emphasised that the labour movement remained critical of the neo-liberal economic policies that had held sway over the past two decades.  The OECD should expedite its review of the OECD Principles of Corporate Governance.  The drafting of these Principles in 1999 was a good first step, but they now stood in clear need of revision and completion.  “We must raise the bar”, President Sweeney urged. 

TUAC Vice-President  Luc Cortebeeck of Belgium called for more effective exchanges.  Other TUAC speakers stressed the need for ensuring that there were core labour standards in non-OECD member countries, especially in Asia (Kiyoshi Sasamori of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation), and there was a call for public perceptions to be altered to counter erroneous views that unions and labour rights were obstacles to economic growth (Heinz Putzhammer of Germany).  

On the second main issue discussed, senior OECD officials and member-country delegates recalled the value of the Organisation’s cross-disciplinary approach to the policy debate.  In presenting the question, TUAC General-Secretary John Evans stressed that globalisation needed better rules, and he detected a tendency for OECD simply to view labour markets as obstacles and thus in need of deregulation.  The EDRC (economic review) process was valuable but much less so if it meant finance ministers talking together in getting out a hardline message. He said it was clear that TUAC should have a role in the EDRC process, especially in order to reinforce treatment of the social issues, which have now come to assume a larger dimension in the economic policy spectrum   He also reiterated the need for action on the OECD MNE Guidelines.  It was important to beef up the work on social issues on the agenda, and TUAC, he said, was ready and keen to be engaged on the social agenda in the OECD context.   OECD Secretary-General Donald Johnston reaffirmed OECD’s commitment to the Guidelines. He said they were being incorporated into a number of national agreements.

To read the TUAC discussion paper for the OECD Liaison Committee, click here  

TUAC holds 109th Plenary session

(Paris, 21-22 Nov 2002)

Meeting in plenary session at OECD on November 21 and 22, TUAC members approved requests for affiliation from two European labour confederations, the Confederation of Vocational Unions (YS) from Norway, and the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) from France.

Following this election, TUAC's membership now comprises 56 affiliate confederations with a total of more than 69 million members from the 30 OECD countries.  The TUAC plenary also elected Kiyoshi Sasamori, President of Japan's Trade Union Confederation RENGO, as a TUAC Vice-president in succession to Etsuya Washio who has retired.

The TUAC plenary opened on November 21 with a discussion with European Union Trade negotiator Pascal Lamy and OECD Secretary-General Donald Johnson, devoted to the Social Dimension of Globalisation. In an important exchange of views, TUAC speakers called for trade and investment rules to be made more coherent with wider concerns of public policy regarding the observance of fundamental labour rights, especially in relation to the forthcoming Cancun meeting and also in the context of new bilateral trade agreements.   TUAC representatives emphasised that a key element in securing  globalisation with a “human face”, taking account of labour's concerns, rested on better enforcement of the Multinational Enterprise Guidelines adopted by OECD Member governments.      

Later in the plenary, TUAC met with top officials of OECD and OECD Ambassadors in the framework of the TUAC/OECD Liaison Committee to discuss the OECD’s role in international economic governance (see previous news story). Between now and end-April 2003 when the OECD is to hold its main annual Ministerial, the following priority work areas were agreed by TUAC: (1) employment and economic  issues  (2) implementation of OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and follow-up to corporate governance and anti-corruption work (3) sustainable development and climate change and (4) Issues related to globalisation and core labour standards, especially in light of preparations for the Cancun WTO ministerial conference slated for September 2003. 

TUAC argues for new rules on globalisation

An article on the new "rules of globalisation" by the TUAC General Secretary appears in the most recent OECD Observer.

To read the article click here 

Unions accuse OECD governments of dragging their feet on enforcing corporate rules

 (Paris, 25 November 2002)

More than two years after the review of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, TUAC is deeply concerned about the lack of progress in their implementation. Governments adhering to the OECD Guidelines are expected to ensure that companies operating in their countries observe the Guidelines. In order to do this, governments must establish National Contact Points (NCPs), whose responsibility it is to deal with cases raised in an efficient and timely manner.

Trade unions have raised more than 20 Guidelines cases on corporate conduct with NCPs. A majority of the cases concern violation of trade union rights. More than half of the cases have been raised in the US, Dutch and French NCPs. But only a handful of these cases have been resolved or led to meaningful conclusions by NCPs. Some of the most serious involve Korean companies.

The US NCP stands out as most passive. Not one of the five cases raised has had a satisfactory outcome. The case on the Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR) has, after 11 months, been removed on the pretext of the case “being effectively addressed through other appropriate means”.

A United Nations Security Council panel of experts revealed in October 2001 that LISCR, which is registered as a US company, had been used to transfer money to buy weapons for the Liberian government in violation of the UN arms embargo.

In the light of this, the International Transport Workers’ Federation requested the US NCP to investigate whether the conduct of LISCR was also in breach of the OECD Guidelines. The US NCP has clearly neglected its responsibilities by rejecting the call to examine whether LISCR has violated the OECD Guidelines. The fact that it has taken almost a year to draw this conclusion is further proof of its neglect.

Furthermore, 85 companies (of which nine were from the US) were recently listed in the report by the UN Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo as being in breach of the OECD Guidelines. TUAC supports the panel’s conclusion that governments failing to take remedial measures are guilty of complicity.

The TUAC Plenary Session at their meeting in Paris on 22 November called on governments to honour their commitment to the OECD Guidelines and to look seriously into the behaviour of corporations believed to violate those Guidelines.

Unions engaged in action to follow up the WSSD

(Paris – Monday, 14 October, 2002)

TUAC General Secretary John Evans told the Paris-based UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE) last week that workers’ organisations were willing to follow up on the new ground created when ILO and UNEP agreed at a trade union conference in Johannesburg to explore avenues of cooperation with them after the WSSD.

UNEP’s DTIE was hosting a post-WSSD consultative meeting with industry associations in advance of the UNEP’s international Governing Council, scheduled in Kenya next February, where the UN’s top environmental body will adopt measures for WSSD follow up.

Evans said the drafting in the UNEP documents signaled a healthy change within the organization, taking into account WSSD agreements to integrate the social dimension, seek worker and trade union involvement, and to engage in joint action plans within the UN family but particularly with the ILO.

The drafting of the documents propose new perspectives for promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns and to redefine UNEP’s ‘Civil Society’ terms of references to include workers and trade unions, among other group with which to work. Draft proposals were also put forward to include workers and trade union issues within UNEP’s follow-up to the industry sector reporting process, over the next decade, including over health and safety issues.

Evans told NGO and industry representatives who attended the meeting that trade unions were already focusing on several follow up issues and that UNEP could count on their involvement and support for workplace partnerships to ensure progress (see summary of Evans UNEP comments in Appendix below). “We would use the WSSD language on employment and income security to promote our plans for just transition in sectors and companies”, he said, warning that “unless sustainable development can be shown to mean ‘sustainable employment’ many working people who are threatened by change will not support government action to achieve it”.

The UNEP meeting also reviewed issues related to corporate accountability, in the context implementing the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) & Global Compact and OECD Guidelines on Multinatinal Enterprises. IFBWW-Europe General Secretary, Mr. Harrie Bijen, spoke on a forum about multistakholder dialogues and pointed to the trade union experience in Europe to implement corporate accountability measures, but stressed the need for proper training and education of workers.

Evans said that the Summit opened a path in terms of workplace partnerships, laying the groundwork for further commitment among governments, unions, and firms in which the social dimension of development may progress. “To be able to commit ourselves, however, we have to enjoy real protection of labour and human rights”.

He said that trade unions will be extending their advocacy role to campaign for the fulfilment of commitments on development assistance and poverty reduction and would further seek to conclude more agreements at the international level between companies and Global Union Federations.