12 March 2020
Following stakeholder consultations with the OECD Working Party on RBC that took place on 3 March 2020, the TUAC shared the following comments and messages with OECD member states representatives.
Implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
Evolving digital and environmental issues present challenges for implementing the OECD Guidelines. The OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct has launched work designed to integrate the Guidelines and due diligence standards as a way to build pathways for a more sustainable future.
OECD Integrating RBC and digital technologies
TUAC sees an opportunity to connect work being done by the OECD to promote responsible business within projects dealing with digital processes, provided that relevant multi-stakeholder initiatives covering industrial relations do include trade unions.
TUAC urged the OECD to acknowledge present worker impacts and not just look at future impacts at an unspecified time. Digital systems are nourished by data collected from workers every day. Artificial intelligence is being developed by workers right now in support of their enterprises’ long-term competitiveness. It is important for RBC implementation to account for present impacts and acknowledge the value of worker inputs in technological development.
More info on TUAC work on Digital
OECD Integrating RBC and the Environment
TUAC encouraged the OECD to build a bridge to support making a “Just Transition” to a low-carbon economy. The concept is supported by the ILO, Paris Agreement, UN 2030 SDGs, and the “Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration” signed by more than fifty countries and by the European Commission. Policy guidance would help to connect the Guidelines chapters on employment, human rights and environmental rights in support of the Silesia Declaration.
Work being produced by the OECD to address hazardous chemical impacts on worker health and safety could be more robust. Cancer remains the number one cause of work related deaths in many countries. TUAC supports the UN resolution on the human rights of workers exposed to toxic chemicals and calls upon states, businesses and other actors to implement the “Principles on human rights and the protection of workers from exposure to toxic substances.”
Elements for government policies on RBC
The OECD activities around Trade, Investment, Procurement and Financial Transactions represent potential opportunities to achieve positive outcomes for workers.
The most coherent outcome for any government policy on responsible business conduct should be to promote the Guidelines, by legislation and supplemented by innovating approaches that can demonstrate identical results.
However, in places without the necessary political will, new policy models can be developed that would satisfy social and labour objectives through secondary objectives, through the government’s proprietary or financial interests established in procurement, for example. The OECD national contact points could be empowered to request verification of corporate due diligence, to incentivise participation in its mediation process. Such an approach could support realised, not just reported, responsible business impacts.
TUAC recent submission to the OECD on business responsibilities in in investment treaties emphasised three priorities. 1) Countries should actively be reminded of their duties to regulate. 2) Foreign investors should observe RBC standards in their supply chains in order to benefit from treaty coverage. 3) Every international agreement should contain enforceable provisions guaranteeing the respect of fundamental social rights.
Annual Report on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
The OECD 2019 Annual Report points to a crisis for promoting and protecting the standard for responsible business set by the OECD Guidelines. Seventy-eight percent (78%) of cases concluded in 2019 did not resolve the issues identified in the complaint. For trade unions, none of the cases concluded in 2019 resolved issues raised by the workers. Unresolved cases has eroded trade union confidence in the NCP mechanism overall.
Trade unions question the level of corporate commitment to the Guidelines. More companies are refusing to participate in NCP processes. TUAC will be closely monitoring future MNE participation levels and developing recommendations designed to help NCPs keep both parties engaged in future proceedings.
Multi- stakeholder Initiatives are no substitute for trade unions
A growing number of corporate-led “multistakeholder initiatives” have emerged, claiming to address human rights due diligence. Trade unions insist that effective due diligence on human rights, employment and industrial relations can only be done with direct involvement by union and worker representatives.
Collectively bargained workplace structures are essential in effective due diligence on employment and industrial relations issues. The TUAC contests management controlled, non-union multistakeholder programmes as being inconsistent with the OECD Guidelines.
Support for trade union involvement in due diligence appeared in an NCP final statement at the end of 2019. In concluding the BHP Vale specific instance, the Brazil NCP makes a recommendation for the MNE and union to enter into a due diligence validation agreement.