European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Transnational company agreements

ETUI research projects on transnational company agreements

From Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to transnational company agreements: new forms of corporate governance include active participation by workers and their representatives.

This ETUI research project first queried what impact Corporate Social Responsibility has on trade union activities like collective bargaining and the promotion of workers’ rights. It also looked at CSR as a soft law instrument developing in Europe in a context of labour law deregulation. CSR is a cross-cutting issue that runs across competitiveness, social cohesion, environmental and, consumer protection, human rights and democratisation, and conflict prevention. This interaction between different interest groups in societies where businesses operate, but also the interdependence of various branches of law on which CSR initiatives impinge, makes it difficult to adopt a single legal approach towards regulating it. Initial attempts through consumer law and environmental labelling have had some success in providing a legal framework for CSR initiatives, but cannot be applied to its labour aspects. The problem lies in balancing compliance with institutional labour standards with a growing focus on self-regulation in labour relations. This debate may find theoretical roots and practical application in the concept of reflexive law as developed in the early 1980s in relation to labour law and industrial relations. In stage two, the ETUI joined a consortium for a research project on ‘Codes of conduct and international framework agreements: new forms of governance at company level’ supported by the Dublin Foundation. The project looked into the existence of a new form of company-level transnational agreement and its prospective impact on industrial relations systems.In stage three, the research outcomes of stages one and two were discussed in a broader study on the development of corporate governance. From this, transnational company agreements are seen as a potential new opportunity for worker participation in multinational governance and strengthening international CSR. In stage four, the research will look at the impact of transnational company agreements on industrial relations, social dialogue and corporate governance as well as on the promotion of core labour standards and workers’ rights.
Contact: Isabelle Schömann