From the TUC

570,000 workers gain union rights at a stroke

26 Dec 2008, By

Here’s a story you don’t hear very often. On 16 December, global private services union federation UNI and one of their UK affiliates, the GMB, signed an ‘International Framework Agreement’ with the global multinational security firm G4S. G4S has 570,000 employees around the world, which makes it a big player in global employment terms. And all of its members now have the right to join a union.

The agreement was struck after several years of campaigning – some of it aggressive and involving NGOs, some of it painstaking negotiation by unions, and also a case taken to the British contact point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises which set out ethical behaviour standards for multinationals – the TUC explained its role here.

Of course, this negotiating victory won’t change much for British workers – G4S already has very good relations with the GMB in the UK. But it will make a major difference in the global south – countries like Malawi and Nepal – and even in the USA. The involvement of the GMB, with their good relations with G4S, was a crucial element to securing the IFA.

Our history is obviously based in local negotiating, shopfloor strength and daily membership involvement, and none of that should ever be lost. But if we’re going to tackle global multinationals, we need to get better at using tools like International Framework Agreements and OECD Multinational Guidelines.

If you work for a multinational, is there an International Framework Agreement covering the company? Are you in touch with other unions representing members in the company’s overseas operations? And is the company breaching the OECD Multinational Guidelines? Find out and you might be able to do something special for colleagues all over the world.

Finally, after two depressing posts this week on trade union represssion in Iran and the coup in Guinea, the news of this victory may mean it’s at last appropriate for me to write “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!”