Dominique Michel: Most framework agreements cover the entire supply chain, even if the suppliers are not involved. Companies generally agree to inform all their subsidiaries, suppliers, contractors and subcontractors of the agreement. If it is established that a subsidiary or associated company does not comply with the overall agreement, the matter can be taken over with the multinational power plant, which is looking for solutions within the framework of the dialogue. ILO Online: How will the implementation of the agreement be monitored? Dominique Michel: The content of these agreements varies according to the different requirements and characteristics of the companies and trade unions concerned and according to the traditions of labour relations between the parties. They cover all four fundamental principles and workplace rights and refer specifically to the ILO`s core conventions. The other provisions, which differ from one agreement to another, deal with various topics covered by ILO standards, such as the protection of workers` representatives, wages, occupational health and safety and qualification. ILO Online: How many companies have signed these contracts so far? Dominique Michel: An international (or global) framework agreement (IFA) is an instrument negotiated between a multinational and a Federation of the World Union (GUF) to establish an ongoing relationship between the parties and to ensure that the company meets the same standards in all the countries in which it operates. The sectoral unions in the multinational`s country of origin are also involved in the negotiations of the agreement. Although framework agreements are not CSR initiatives, they are often cited in the CSR debate, as they are one of the ways in which companies can express their commitment to certain principles. However, the specific aspect that distinguishes framework agreements from CSR initiatives is that they are the result of negotiations with international workers` representatives. Framework agreements are therefore one of the possible developments in labour relations in the age of globalization.
Dominique Michel: As a recent development in the field of industrial relations, international framework agreements are an interesting topic for the ILO. The ILO Director-General attended the signing of some of them, such as Chiquita. Several ILO departments (social dialogue sector, Institute of Labour Studies, employers` and workers` business offices and the programme of multinational enterprises) monitor and analyse these developments. The ILO`s tripartite declaration on multinational enterprises and social policy is a useful reference point for companies considering the content of these agreements. This statement contains recommendations on the desirable behaviour of companies in terms of employment, equal opportunities and treatment, qualifications, working conditions, occupational health and safety and labour relations. ILO Online: Do these agreements also have an impact on related suppliers or businesses? Dominique Michel: Fifty companies operating in different sectors have signed international framework agreements with five global trade union organisations. The first was signed in 1988 by the French food multinational Danone, the first in 1995 by the hotel chain ACCOR. It was not until 2000 that the number of agreements signed each year accelerated to 50 by the end of 2006. Among them is the Swedish furniture company IKEA; the American banana company Chiquita; German pencil manufacturers Faber-Castell and Staedler; oil companies in Norway (Statoil), Italy (ENI) and Russia (Lukoil); car manufacturers in Germany and France, such as Volkswagen, Daimler-Chrysler, Renault and Peugeot-Citroen; Spanish and French electricity producers Endesa and EDF; Telecommunications companies in Spain (Telefonica) and Greece (OTE) and retailers in France (Carrefour) and Sweden (H-M).