TUAC Working Group on Global Trade and Investment
Paris, 20 September 2000

Summary Report by the TUAC Secretariat



The TUAC Working Group on Global Trade and Investment met in Paris on 20 September 2000 (participants list attached): the first meeting since the adoption of the revised Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises by the June 2000 meeting of the OECD Council of Ministers. 

The Working Group meeting was attended by TUAC affiliates and Secretariat, ITS’s, and representatives of the ICFTU and ETUC Secretariats. The annotated agenda (attached) focussed on three issues: reports on national level discussions with NCPs and other government officials; a strategic discussion by TUAC affiliates, the ICFTU, ITSs and ETUC on next steps for a possible global trade union campaign to ensure the implementation of the revised Guidelines; and an outline discussion on the implications of this for the TUAC Secretariat’s resources. 

Reports on activities around the Guidelines since the Review

Notwithstanding the short period of time since the completion of the Review many TUAC affiliates reported notable signs of activity by NCPs, including in several instances their re-activation, plus their greater willingness to involve trade unions in the development of possible mechanisms to promote and importantly, implement the Guidelines. At the same time some affiliates reported little change in the attitude  of the NCP. The attached schematic diagram summarises the presentations made by affiliates from eleven countries. That may actually understate the real situation, as affiliates where activities are ongoing may not have been present at the meeting. 

The TUAC Secretariat plans to regularly update the report of activities around the Guidelines, and to make it available to affiliates and other interested trade union organisations electronically, including via the Global Unions web site. To facilitate this we would urge the continued reporting of any activities to the TUAC Secretariat. 

Marinus Sikkel, the Chair of the OECD Working Party on the Guidelines joined the TUAC Working Group to discuss future follow-up action by the OECD and NCPs (see schematic report), and to hear the views of the trade union participants on these matters. 

He thanked TUAC and its affiliates for their "critical" support during the Review, which in his view was required to attain the end result. Looking forward he said that TUAC needed to maintain the pressure so as to ensure that the revised Guidelines were implemented in practice, which was the key challenge facing all stakeholders. 

On this he stated his belief that the Guidelines had to become a living instrument. The OECD Working Party on the Guidelines which was meeting in parallel was holding a stock taking exercise of developments since the completion of the review. He hoped that the leaders among the NCPs could offer advice and assistance to those seeking help in setting up or re-activating NCP structures. As an NCP he had received several requests for help. He stated that the OECD Working Party had expectations on the role that business would play in promoting and implementing the Guidelines. He was particularly keen to ensure that the Guidelines reached managers in enterprises, and requested help from TUAC and its affiliates on this. 

In responding to questions from the TUAC working Group he agreed that the key to implementing the Guidelines lay with national governments taking ownership and responsibility for that. National level trade union pressure for that would help, as would peer pressure at the OECD. To help ensure that NCPs would not dodge their responsibilities here, all NCPs would be expected to respond to a questionnaire, including on national level experiences with handling cases. The responses would form the basis of annual reports to the CIME, and the Ministerial Council meetings. 

He agreed on the importance of government/business dialogue beneath the national associations level, and requested ideas from TUAC on how best to do this. He agreed also on the need for inward and outward investors, including those receiving government subsidies to receive the Guidelines. As regards the updating of the Green Book, it must not be about re-negotiating the texts or commentaries, and so as not to lose past jurisprudence on the Guidelines previous clarifications should be included.  Turning to outreach he wanted to increase the number of countries adhering to the Guidelines, on which the OECD would hold a seminar in December 2000 with non-Members. He also wanted to tap into trade union contacts with non-Member countries. 

Developing a strategic trade union approach to implementing the Guidelines in adhering countries

The main points of the discussion are summarised in the attached schematic diagram. However, a lengthy discussion was held on the roles of national centres, ITSs, and affiliates in promoting the Guidelines, and bringing cases forward. To summarise, there could be no blueprint for action, rather activities should be organised according to the differing national circumstances. However, the key to this would be co-operation between all those involved: the TUAC, ICFTU, ETUC, ITSs and affiliates, whether at the national level, or when invoking the CIME procedures. 

A debate was held also around the role that the Guidelines could play as part of the emerging "tool-kit" for trade union campaigns on MNEs. There was broad agreement that the Guidelines could play a role to stimulate trade union dialogue with MNEs, which could lead among other things to ITS/MNE framework agreements. At the same time Guidelines cases could be brought forward to NCPs. On this it made sense to use the instrument in a strategic way, perhaps as part of broader campaigns. Similarly, there was general agreement that the Guidelines could be linked to wider trade union work on, for example, the UN Global Compact, the activities of EWCs, or work on pension funds and institutional investors. 

Differing views were expressed around the development of certification/verification procedures by those companies staking a claim in this area. No agreement was reached on this, except to recognise the difficulties involved, including the importance of not appearing to give MNEs an unwarranted stamp of approval, and that the Working Group would have to return to this issue. As regards joint campaigning with NGOs on Guidelines matters, there was broad agreement to accept that this would develop according to different international, national and sectoral circumstances. 

Developing a strategic approach to implementing the Guidelines in non-adhering countries

There was agreement that the issues that concerned adhering countries applied equally to non-adhering countries. However, it was agreed also that care had to be exercised, and that the concerns of trade unions in developing countries had to be primary, whether when using the Guidelines to promote trade union/MNE dialogue, or in bringing cases forward. Again inter-trade union co-operation would be the key to this, based on a solidaristic approach. This issue would raise also the possibility of using the CIME procedures to test the language, on for example, child and forced labour, and the supply chain, including in EPZs. On this there was general agreement to work with well-prepared serious cases. The point was raised also that the Guidelines could be a useful tool to build bridges with developing countries fearful of the power of MNEs. The point was made also that the Guidelines could provoke clashes with those NGOs, accusing Northern trade unions of protectionism: a factor in the wider debate around linking labour standards to trade agreements. 

Next steps in using the Guidelines

The attached schematic diagram summarises the main points of agreement that were reached. There was a discussion on the resource implications for the TUAC Secretariat in the event of a significant expansion in Guidelines related activities, as already appeared to be happening. It was agreed that the TUAC secretariat would hold informal discussions with affiliates, ITS's and other potential donors on this issue, with a view to presenting proposals for consideration at the 16-17 November TUAC Plenary Session. 

Wider investment issues: the CIME programme of work

The CIME mandate would be renewed and revised from 31 December 2000, to include the formalisation of CIME work with non-member countries on "international investment and multinational enterprises"; and that it "shall promote policy dialogue with the business community, labour representatives and non-governmental organisations". The CIME work programme (2001-2002) included the setting up of a global forum for investment policies, with joint work with the WTO, UNCTAD, World Bank, and other multilateral organisations. Working Groups would be set up to examine: harmful forms of "policy competition" to attract investment (financial, fiscal, social and environment); and "maximising the benefits of international investment". Issues would be examined on the effects of non-discrimination for investors, investment protection, and the right for governments to regulate (including on social and environmental policies). It was agreed that the TUAC should seek a trade union input into these and other relevant CIME activities. 

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