EU Global Strategy

ILC 105 - EU Statement - Committee on Promoting Decent Work in Global Supply Chains - Q2

Geneva, 31/05/2016 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 161222_7
Statements on behalf of the EU

International Labour Conference - 105th session (30th May – 10th June 2016) - Committee on Promoting Decent Work in Global Supply Chains - Q2: What policies, strategies, actions and programmes have been put in place by the Office, ILO constituents and other stakeholders to ensure that economic development and decent work, including respect for international labour standards go hand in hand?

Madam Chair,

I speak on behalf of the EU and its Member States.

Promoting Decent Work in the Global Supply Chains is a high priority for us, and we have adopted orientations in May 2016 on this subject. There are many policies, actions and programmes that we have put in place for inclusive economic development and decent work to go hand in hand in global supply chains. We are pleased to share them with the members of the committee and to learn from others.

In general, our policy framework provides for the promotion of Decent Work and human rights within our borders and when engaging in relations with third countries. All EU political framework agreements, to which recently concluded trade agreements are linked to, stipulate that human rights including core labour standards are an essential element in the relations between the parties.

Our CSR, trade, procurement and development policies have a direct bearing on Global Supply Chains:

The EU underlines the need for CSR, private sector engagement and responsible management of Global Supply Chains in achieving inclusive and sustainable outcomes. We promote International Framework Agreements and Corporate Social Responsibility, which we consider being the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society. To fully meet that demand, enterprises should have in place processes to integrate – amongst other issues - social and labour concerns into their business operations and core strategy. They should do this in close cooperation with their stakeholders with the aim of identifying, preventing and mitigating their possible adverse impacts on social and labour rights. At least large enterprises and enterprises of particular risk are called on to carry out risk-based due diligence, including through their supply chains. Due to our EU CSR-Strategy public authorities should play a supporting role through a smart mix of voluntary policy measures and, where necessary, complementary regulation, e.g. to promote transparency, create market incentives for responsible business conduct (e.g. public procurement, export credit agencies, investment insurance etc.), and ensure corporate accountability. An important part of the supportive role of states is to clarify what is concretely expected of enterprises.

Furthermore, we have specific guidance and conditionality on the private sector in development cooperation. For example, we launched a project in Thailand with the ILO to fight forced labour and other unacceptable forms of work in the fishing sector. We support several ILO regional projects to promote Decent Work in Global Supply Chains.

In public procurement, our new rules facilitate the use of social criteria to ensure compliance with ILO fundamental conventions where the work is carried out and exclusion of companies failing to comply. On the basis of the UN Guiding Principles, governments have a special responsibility for the promotion, respect and effective implementation of these conventions when they own or deal with businesses.

And as mentioned in our previous statement, in our investment and trade agreements and instruments, we include labour provisions and set-up dedicated channels for an active dialogue on this topic. 

Furthermore, we have legislation on transparency, which is particularly important for governance, and on certain risks:

In accordance with EU law large companies are required to disclose non-financial information in management reports on policies, risks and results as regards respect for human rights and social/employee matters in order to operate transparently.

On Occupational Safety and Health, our legislation provides for information and cooperation between client and contractors.

And on trafficking in human beings, including for forced labour, the EU has developed an ambitious legal and policy framework to address this serious crime and human rights abuse. Our legislation recognises the role of private sector in preventing and combating trafficking in human beings. In particular in efforts to reduce demand and develop Supply Chains not involving trafficking. And it provides that legal persons can be held liable for offences of trafficking.

We believe that social dialogue is a key element to foster decent work:

At sectoral level, we support the initiatives of European social partners that jointly develop frameworks and tools. An example, in clothing and textile, a risk assessment tools has been developed to support firms, in particular SMEs, to assess human and environmental risks before engaging in business with suppliers;

At company level, we have established per law mechanisms to inform and consult workers of a company at European level. We also support collective bargaining,  International Framework Agreements whether on company or sector level and other cross border social dialogue processes that, in contrast to unilateral private compliance initiatives foresee a participation of (international) social partners and are therefore more effective.

We follow sectoral approaches:

In high risks sectors, we are developing specific legislation: this is in particular the case for:

Conflict minerals with binding proposals for supply chain due diligence, certification and transparency mechanisms;

Fishing with the prohibition of import and export of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements (SFPAs) with third countries comprising binding rules to ensure decent working and living conditions for seamen on-board fishing vessels. 

We develop certification  mechanisms;

And we also support sectoral approaches at international level and take initiatives in this field, in particular for:

Employment and recruitment agencies, ICT, oil and gas where we have developed sectoral guidance on business and human rights as well as OECD due diligence guidance for stakeholder engagement;

Garment, textile and footwear where we work with producing countries including through the support to international, national and social partners initiatives and the development of OECD due diligence guidance;

Agriculture with the development of FAO-OECD guidance for responsible agricultural Supply Chains.

We also follow regional and bilateral approaches:

We have developed cooperation on Decent Work in Supply Chains with specific countries, in cooperation with the ILO. We would like to highlight the 2013 “EU sustainability compact for continuous improvements in labour rights and factory safety in ready-made garment and knitwear industry in Bangladesh” concluded with Bangladesh, the United States, Canada and the ILO.

We have developed a dialogue on CSR and business and human rights with the African Union, ASEAN and CELAC as well as several partner countries. With Asia, our ASEM 2015 Sofia declaration contains a comprehensive chapter on "promoting Decent Work and safer workplaces in Global Supply Chains”. In this declaration ASEM leaders have committed themselves to promote Decent Work within and outside Supply Chains, and also in the informal economy, to promote international framework agreements and Responsible Business Conduct, including social dialogue, and to promote a level playing field for sustainable businesses with regard to Decent Work.

And finally, we support international frameworks and initiatives. In particular:

We are fully committed to the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, promote the ILO MNE declaration in many of our instruments and policies and support the application of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (and the network of National Contact Points), the UN Global Compact and ISO 26000 Guidance on Social Responsibility. Many EU Member States have already or are currently establishing national action plans on CSR or in order to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

We strongly support the G7, G20 and OECD initiatives. We support the G7 Leader’s Declaration 2015 with the commitment to urge private sector implementation of human rights due diligence, to strengthen complaint mechanism, to help specially SMEs to develop a common understanding of due diligence and responsible supply chain management and to welcome the efforts to set up substantial National Action Plans. In particular we contribute to the G20 safer workplaces initiative through a study on OSH in Supply Chains, to the establishment of the “Vision Zero Fund” established by G7 to foster OSH in production countries and cooperate with the ILO in this context.

There are key aspects in our long description that we think are of particular interest for future orientations: transparency, sustainable trade, public procurement, social dialogue, sectoral and regional approaches, a smart mix of voluntary policy measures  and complementary regulation, a clear expectation communication towards businesses and application of international frameworks. It is important that these aspects are also discussed here at the ILO and that we draw conclusions for the positioning of the ILO in the future.


Thank you, chair. 

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