The International Obligations of the OECD
19. INTERNATIONAL COORDINATION NECESSARY: Efforts to deal with
Climate Change provide convincing proof that environmental problems must
be addressed internationally for effective local implementation measures
to take effect and to avoid the potentially damaging consequences of companies
or nations seeking to gain a competitive advantage at the expense of the
environment, employment or economic development. The non-OECD world is,
correctly, looking for leadership and commitment from the OECD.
20. CHEMICAL HARMONIZATION: This is especially evident in the
area of chemical classification and harmonization of substances. The OECD
is currently coordinating the implementation of Chapter 19 of Agenda 21
and is in a position to develop and promote mechanisms which facilitate
environmental improvements both within and beyond the OECD countries.
21. TAX HARMONIZATION AND COMMUNICATION: In like manner there
is a need for a well harmonized green tax regime so as to ensure that measures
in one country do not counteract the measures adopted by another. Similarly,
there is a need for international coordination of activities and information
on environment and for the coordination of technology transfer from OECD
countries. The OECD must continue to play an active role in these areas.
22. ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENTS: Multilateral environmental agreements
(MEAs) and targets relating to environmental protection and trade must
be fully translated into national and local law and must not conflict with
sustainable development transition measures, or undermine basic environment
and labour standards. Minimum standard provisions should not have the effect
of replacing higher standards in countries where they exist by reducing
them to a lowest common denominator. Agreements should promote the strengthening
of existing standards wherever possible.
23. THE MULTILATERAL AGREEMENT ON INVESTMENT: It is now clear
that negotiations at the OECD to conclude a Multilateral Agreement on Investment
(MAI) will not meet the deadline of the April 1998 Meeting of the OECD
Council of Ministers. Whatever the future of the MAI, OECD governments
must learn the lessons from this failure. Paramount here is that the granting
of legally binding rights and protection for investors must be matched
with reciprocal rights covering workers and the environment. Among other
things, this includes a binding clause in the MAI committing governments
not to lower or not enforce domestic and internationally agreed labour
standards and environmental standards in order to attract investment. This
is a key issue in the domestic debate on the ratification of any emerging
Agreement. The OECD must now begin without delay the Review of the OECD
Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The Review should ensure that
the Guidelines conform with the requirements of sustainable development
as contained in Agenda 21 and produce a substantively improved Chapter
on Environmental Protection. Above and beyond this, a renewed initiative
needs to be taken to ensure the promotion and implementation of the Guidelines.
24. COMMON BUT DIFFERENTIATED RESPONSIBILITIES: The OECD must
also recognize the urgent need for developing countries to fight poverty.
Assistance must be provided to these countries to adjust to the economic,
social, environmental, and health costs of environmental protection and
the cost of environmental degradation. Sustainable production in the non-OECD
countries will not become a reality unless they are able to meet basic
social and economic development objectives. A world-wide programme of action
is, therefore, needed to promote employment as means of combating poverty
and implementing sustainable development goals. Finally, the commitment
made at Rio in 1992 for common but differentiated responsibilities of the
countries signing the Declaration should be revisited and renewed.
Appendix Trade Union Initiatives in Environmental Protection (A few examples)
Environmental protection is emerging as a priority for the worlds trade
unions, and many have already broken new ground with initiatives which
show how progress can be achieved when workers and their unions are involved.
In the process, they have altered traditional workplace relations and expanded
their role in the community. The following are illustrative of some of
the forms these initiatives have taken:
In Argentina, the National Civil Personnel Union (MUPCN), in
partnership with the National Civil Personnel Mutual, launched a reforestation
project as means of recycling carbon dioxide, creating employment and generating
$4 million annually for a Mutual Plan retirement fund that will yield an
extra $150/month in pension earnings per worker.
In Brazil, negotiations between the country's chemical industry
and its unions have resulted in an agreement that provides detailed guidelines
and procedures for the environmental control of benzene involving workers
and their unions. The Benzeno Accordo established a Permanent National
Commission on Benzene in which workers, employers and government participate
equally in decision-making.
In Canada, the Canadian Automotive Workers (CAW) has negotiated
Cleaner Production provisions into collective agreements with the motor
industry, involving 50,000 workers in 30 plants, as well as supplier and
parts manufacturers. Joint union-management action has reduced worker and
environmental exposure to many substances through a process of substitution.
In the Czech Republic, the Czech Mine, Geology and Oil Industry
Workers' Union (OS PHGN), assisted by Cornell University, has launched
a project which employed eco-audits and a "train the trainers" program
to build environmental awareness, beginning with its 120,000 members, and
through them, some 400,000 family and community members.
In Denmark, the Danish Union of Graphical Workers (Grafisk Forbund)
has concluded a framework agreement with the Danish Graphical Employers'
Association to promote cleaner production in the industry. The National
Agency of Environmental Protection has financially supported low-cost action
involving small employers to clean up production and promote employment.
In Eritrea, leaders of the newly-formed National Confederation
of Eritrean Workers (NCEW) used ILO Worker Education materials in discussions
on sustainable development at all levels in their country. As a result,
Health, Safety and Environment committees are being established, members
are being trained and agreements are being negotiated throughout the new
In Germany, the Union of Construction, Agriculture and Environment
concluded an "ecological collective" agreement in 1994 with an association
of companies providing environmental industrial services. The German Food
Workers Union concluded another such agreement in 1996 which involved the
Schumaker brewery company and in 1997 the Postal Workers Union concluded
another environmental collective agreement involving the telecommunications
sector. Also, the Chemical and Energy Workers' Union (IG BCE) has signed
over 60 works agreements with employers which extend the activities of
works councils beyond safety matters to strategic decision-making on the
In Ghana, the local Timber and Woodworkers Union (TWU) has established
a tree nursery, wood lots and teak plantations. Based on the success of
initial reforestation efforts, the union is currently planning to expand
its reforestation and environmental awareness programmes.
In Hungary, local trade unions at the Tisza Chemical plastics
complex (TVK) have participated in a cleaner production programme to introduce
an environment management system that meets the requirements of ISO 14000.
A waste management programme has reduced energy demand and industrial water
consumption, as part of an effort to clean up the river Tisza, which flows
near the plant.
In India, the West Bengal Cha Mazdoor Sabha is working for amendments
to the Plantations Labour Act to improve protection and training for tea
workers exposed to agro-chemical hazards, especially as they affect drinking
water supply. It has also organised study sessions and produced public
information materials on the environmental and health issues associated
with tea plantations.
In Japan, the regional Osaka organisation of the national trade
union centre (RENGO) organized a public campaign to clean up the polluted
Yamato River. Union members took water samples, carried out fact-finding
surveys, collected signatures for petitions, held education events for
local residents, and engaged in negotiations with the mayors of affected
communities. The All-Japan Water Supply Workers' Union (ZENSUIDO) is holding
symposia throughout the country to educate members on water issues.
In Norway the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO-Norway)
has formed an "Environmental Forum" with the Norwegian Society for the
Conservation of Nature to promote environmental issues. LO-Norway also
offers a yearly environmental prize for positive initiatives, the most
recent prize going to a union in a manganese factory for helping to reduce
zinc, manganese and sludge emissions. The Norwegian Union of Chemical Industry
Workers has become a driving force in reducing workplace emissions by up
In the Philippines, an affiliate of the Trade Union Congress
of the Philippines (TUCP) negotiated an agreement with an association of
industrial employers to establish an Observatory for Environmental, Health
and Safety which operates through a bipartite decision making-process to
determine environmental objectives and implementing targets.
In Romania, the National Free Trade Union Confederation of Romania-Brotherhood
(CNSLR-FRATIA) joined forces with local authorities, NGOs, some local businesses
and educational institutions in a broad public education campaign to reduce
sulphur dioxide, lead, zinc cadmium and fluoride emissions from local industries,
which had polluted the air, ground and water.
In Russia, the Inter-Regional Trade Union Organisation (IRTUO)
and Yukos Oil have signed a collective agreement to promote the active
participation of 110,000 members and the Union in the company's environmental
protection programmes. Under the terms of the joint ecology agreement,
union enterprise committees formulate and implement cleaner production
objectives and targets.
In Scotland, the Manufacturing, Science, Finance (MSF) has cooperated
on an expanded number of environmental issues with the GEC Ferranti company
- a large defence contractor. A Joint Office Committee on energy efficiency
has been established in conjunction with consultations on redundancies
to reduce the cost of overhead, promote recycling and save energy.
In Spain, the Confederacion Sindical de Comisiones Obreras (CC
OO), led a co-ordinated effort by industry, environmental organisations,
academics, researchers, as well as consumer and citizens' organisations,
to draft and present a common proposal for an Action Plan on Climate Change
to the Spanish Government.
In Sweden, a national trade union centre for white-collar workers
has introduced the "6E", a guide for integrating ecology and the work environment
in everyday decision-making by all workers and employers, into several
enterprises. The TCOs 6E label is a symbol of "Responsible Practice,"
signifying total environmental integration of the external and internal
workplace environments, and may be awarded to a complete operation, or
just one part of it.
In the United Kingdom, a trade union in a Coca Cola-Schweppes
Beverages plant has agreed to support a Cleaner Production programme to
save energy, water and materials. Savings of $3 million have resulted in
in one year, producing a $1,500 bonus for each employee. Most of the CP
measures involved simple housekeeping measures, involving little or no
cost or job loss.
In the United States, the United Steelworkers of America (USMA)
engaged in a co-operative programme with the Republic Engineered Steel
Co. in which action on over 1,000 cost-saving and environmental suggestions
brought forward by employees has already resulted in savings of about $45
Internationally, the TUAC and ICFTU have steadily expanded their
work on specific campaigns with NGO's and international agencies to integrate
health and safety with the environment in such areas as chemicals, eco-auditing,
child labour, toys, and international standards. Their participation at
the CSD with international business groups and NGOs has highlighted the
vital contribution which workplace partners can make to international efforts
to finally meet the challenge of Agenda 21.
Source: TUAC and the ICFTU Background Papers prepared
for the Sixth Session of the CSD, 20 April 1 May, 1998.