ON THE ADOPTION OF OECD GUIDELINES
FOR MULTINATIONAL ENTERPRISES
27 June 2000
By John Evans
TUAC General Secretary
The exchange we are having today is part of a much wider discussion
of what are to be the rules governing globalisation. The lesson that TUAC
draws from recent events and the message that should be given by this Ministerial
is that global markets need governance. Global corporations need effective
counterweights through civil society, through unions and through effective
If the global market is to be socially sustainable, and not lead to
negative investment competition and the fear of a race to the bottom,
these rules have to cover social concerns. They also have to cover environmental
As multinational corporations are principal actors in the global market,
these rules have to cover corporations and they need to be set by governments.
The lack of governmental rules have led some corporations to fill the gap
themselves, setting their own codes of corporate behaviour the more effective
of which are externally verifiable. Many unions have also negotiated agreements
with companies on their global activities. But governments have to set
a floor of regulation.
TUAC sees the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises as part
of the process of setting government expectations of corporate behaviour.
They are a first step to rules which protect those corporations which observe
standards, treat their workers well and protect the environment from those
corporations that do not.
It is important that governments have now re-written and revised the
Guidelines. It is important that the OECD has modernised an instrument
that is 25 years old. We welcome changes in the text calling for respect
for the core labour rights set out in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental
Rights at Work. We would have liked it to have gone further on child labour
and other issues, but it represents a compromise. It is also important
that the Guidelines begin to address the responsibility of corporations
for their sub-contractors in the supply chain and it is important that
it is now clearly stated that the Guidelines apply globally and are a global
But the Guidelines must be effectively implemented. If they are not,
it will just lead to cynicism. That has been the situation for the last
ten years - voluntary has come to mean optional, there have been Kafkaesque
clarifications from the OECD CIME, and so many National Contact Points
have been non-existent.
Today governments are committing themselves to establish contact points
that are expected to help resolve cases, make public recommendations in
a procedure where the OECD can exert peer pressure to make contact points work.
TUAC will be engaging with its members, with companies that want to
make the Guidelines work, with governments and the OECD. We will also be
working to expose companies and contact points that flout the Guidelines.
Chair, our aim is to start a race to the top in socially responsible
corporate behaviour - a race to the top in the export processing zones
and special zones that have sprung up around the world. The Guidelines
mark the start of that process not the end of negotiations, governments
will have to show the political will to implement what they have agreed