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Global framework agreements and joint statements

Last edited: July 06, 2020

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Global framework agreements are the outcome of negotiations between multinational enterprises (MNEs) and global union federations and may take the form of policies, codes of conduct and other voluntary initiatives. They are underpinned by a number of non-binding international instruments concerning business operations, such as the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

In recent years there has been an increase in the number of global framework agreements in sectors that employ large numbers of women. Some examples include:  the Global Framework Agreement between Inditex and IndustriALL Global Union (IndustriALL) on the implementation of international labour standards throughout the supply chain of Inditex (Inditex and IndustriALL Global Union, 2014); the Global Framework Agreement between H&M Hennes & Mauritz GBC AB and IndustriALL and Industrifacket Metall (H&M Hennes & Mauritz GBC AB and IndustriALL and Industrifacket Metall, Undated); and the Global Framework Agreement between Carrefour and UNI Global Union to promote Social dialogue and Diversity and to ensure the protection of Fundamental Principles and Rights in the workplace (Carrefour and UNI Global Union, 2015).

In a globalized economy, global and regional framework agreements and joint statements have proven a valuable tool to prevent violence and harassment. Some agreements between MNEs and global union federations have been used to address gender equality issues and gender-based violence in global supply chains. Many women work in global production sites, sometimes established in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in emerging and developing economies, some of which are covered by framework agreements, though many are not. However, challenges and deficits in realizing fundamental rights and decent work are well documented in many EPZs, with collective bargaining being rare and women workers particularly at risk of harassment and discrimination (ILO, 2017, para.5; Morris and Pillinger, 2016; Hadwiger, 2015).

Joint commitments between MNEs and global union federations on sexual harassment 

Unilever, International Union of Food, Agriculture, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) and IndustriALL “Joint Commitment to prevent workplace sexual harassment” (IUF, IndustriALL and Unilever, 2016)

The Joint Commitment covers all Unilever supply chain organizations, which have implemented or are in the process of implementing the Joint Commitment, including complaints mechanisms. The Joint Commitment states that: “Unilever, the IUF and IndustriALL affirm their joint commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion within Unilever’s non-management workforce.” It emphasises that “…preventing sexual harassment in the workplace is an essential foundation for promoting a culture of inclusion and diversity” and “...full protection and support is given to the victims of sexual harassment throughout the process and its outcome.” It goes further than similar global commitments made between MNEs and global unions by stating that, in situations where there are significant risks faced by women workers (for example, in plantations employing large numbers of temporary labour) and where there are high numbers of women supervised by a majority of men, “specific awareness and training measures should be agreed and deployed by management and the trade union.”  A Unilever–IUF –IndustriALL Joint Working Group on Diversity has been established to monitor the process and share experiences and best practices. The joint commitment builds on work carried out to raise awareness of gender inequalities, as part of Unilever’s goal for a gender-balanced organization, particularly in management.

In 2017 the IUF produced a booklet “No Place for Sexual Harassment at Unilever” to help its members understand the role of workers, unions and management in preventing sexual harassment in the workplace (IUF, 2017a).

 

SODEXO-IUF “Joint Commitment on preventing sexual harassment” (SODEXO-IUF, 2017)

Sodexo, a French food services and facilities management company with a workforce of 425,000 workers, has engaged with the IUF to develop measures to address sexual harassment. An annex - in the form of a Joint Commitment attached to the existing global framework agreement - was agreed to in 2018, committing the company to zero-tolerance for sexual harassment. The Joint Commitment states that sexual harassment is an offence which can lead to disciplinary action, including dismissal from the company, and that Sodexo will provide training for all staff on this policy and their related responsibilities. Also included is a clause prohibiting sexual harassment in Sodexo’s Supplier Code of Conduct, requiring the company to inform its subcontractors and suppliers of the policy and to use its influence to resolve cases of sexual harassment that might arise in the framework of its relations with subcontractors/suppliers.

IUF has now produced a guidebook for trade unions, “Zero tolerance for sexual harassment at Sodexo”, setting out action for unions to take to implement the agreement (IUF, 2017b).

 

Chiquita, the IUF and the Coordinating Body of Latin American Banana and Agro-Industrial Unions (COLSIBA): “Joint understanding on sexual harassment” (Chiquita-IUF-Colsiba, 2013)

The Latin American regional framework agreement adopted by Chiquita, the IUF and COLSIBA in 2001 commits the parties to a joint understanding on sexual harassment (annexed to the agreement), to work on training strategies and share good practices, and to ensure that workers have access to information about their rights. The appendix also references the ILO Code of Practice on safety and health in agriculture, which includes a model sexual harassment policy (ILO, 2011d). The joint understanding on sexual harassment has been an entry point for a project in Panama. As a way of preventing sexual harassment, one of the objectives is to ensure there are more women workers in supervisory and managerial positions on the plantations, where the majority are currently men.

Carrefour and UNI Global Union Global Framework Agreement (Carrefour-UNI Global Union, 2015)

The Global Framework Agreement between Carrefour and UNI Global Union to promote social dialogue and diversity and to ensure the protection of fundamental principles and rights in the workplace was signed in 2015 and renewed in 2018. It includes a joint commitment whereby both parties express their concern regarding violence against women in the private and professional sphere and their commitment to reduce it (Carrefour-UNI Global Union, 2015, clause 3.3.4). The agreement also endorses the European Consultation and Information Committee (CICE) Declaration on the fight against violence against women, which recommends taking five measures: informing and forming in order to raise awareness and detect cases; communicating both internally and externally; building a network with external actors; accompanying and following-up on the victim; and reparation and taking action (Carrefour-UNI Global Union, 2015, Annex 3)

 

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