Global Policy Forum

Remarks of Bill Jordan,

January 29, 2001

Globalisation remains a puzzle. However, it is clear that social dialogue is an important missing piece. It is insufficient and fragile. Even the International Labour Organisation, with a tripartitie tradition of more than 80 years, carries out its mission largely though bringing together national actors from around the world to further standards based on national legislation, regulation and social dialogue.

The significance of UN General-Secretary Kofi Annan's Global Compact initiative is that it brings together global employers, global unions, and other global civil society actors for dialogue and engagement. It begins to lay a foundation for global community. The engagement of private parties to be responsible actors in the global economy does not absolve governments of the duty to ensure that human rights, including workers' rights, are respected and that the environment is not despoiled. Responsible conduct by private parties does not replace, but complements responsible behaviour by public authorities.

Governments must act individually and collectively to further all nine principles incorporated in the Global Compact. After all, those principles were not picked out of the air. They reflect a global consensus of governments. Governments must also act collectively on the world stage to build global governance and to bring balance to the global economy. States must make sure that the rights of workers and citizens will be at least as important as the rights of property in any system of global rules.

But, governments can already begin to influence global corporate behaviour by fully employing already available tools like the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, an instrument embodying government expectations that provides a key role for governments in its implementation. Last year's revision of the Guidelines incorporates all of the principles of the Global Compact.

We do not fear that the Compact will delay or undermine global rule - making. Rather, we see it as a tool of growing importance to build and reinforce global social dialogue, a tool that can be developed in such a way as to lead to real, concrete results. This dialogue can, in fact, contribute to global governance. It is a flexible, practical, and indispensable process for shaping the future of globalisation and managing change.

It was one year ago this month that a delegation of international trade union leaders met with Kofi Annan. We agreed to become one of the partners in the Global Compact. Since that time, social dialogue has grown considerably. During that year, the first framework agreement in the "new economy" was signed between a global company and a global union, the accord between Telefonica and Union Network International (UNI). It is one of the most recent of several global company – trade union framework agreements.

In that same year, we have witnessed the first serious negotiations between a global industry association and a global union on a matter of great importance, occupational health and safety and the environment. This may lead to an agreement between the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) and the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) that would facilitate trade union participation in the chemical industry's "Responsible Care" initiative.

Also, during this year, we have seen the signature of a collective bargaining agreement covering wages, hours, and working conditions between a global union, the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and a global employer group representing dozens of shipowners, the International Maritime Employers Committee (IMEC).

In addition to company and industry specific discussions built around the principles of the Compact, our movement seeks dialogue on important, general issues. We share the interest of the UN in exploring private contributions to improving prospects for peace in conflict zones. Trade unions are among the rare social institutions that can pull together people around their common interest as workers who would otherwise be in conflict. All three Compact partners should work together to help create an environment where productive investment and engagement can contribute to both stability and democracy.

In closing, I would like to recognise those companies that have engaged in the Global Compact. We hope that this willingness by a substantial number of companies to embrace the Compact, including the freedom of workers to join together in unions, will spread to others. The trade union movement is ready, willing, and able to engage in dialogue whenever possible and in conflict whenever necessary. We prefer, however, constructive dialogue. Unfortunately, far too many companies still seem to be committed to class warfare. We need to generate a social dialogue that is so extensive, intensive and productive that it will begin to change that bunker mentality.

Trade unions seek a globalisation that is more than the simple freedom for capital to be global and to associate and combine at all levels. We seek a globalisation where workers everywhere and at all levels will be free to associate and bargain collectively. These enabling freedoms are central to the Compact and to the constructive work going on between companies and their trade union interlocutors. They are also central to the construction of strong and independent civil society. Together, assuming our responsibilities, we can make a difference in building a world that is freer, fairer, and cleaner.


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