From the TUC

IUF settles OECD Guidelines complaint against Compass

22 Feb 2012, By

After nearly three years, and several rounds of mediation, the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) have finally struck a deal with Compass over a serious labour dispute with its Algerian subsidiary, Eurest. While it’s good news for Eurest’s workers, it’s also significant because it’s yet another deal inked in London, with the help of the UK National Contact Point to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. This follows in the wake of successful settlements with G4S and Unilever.  This non-binding and largely obscure international treaty is increasingly helping us with organising across borders.

The IUF initially alleged that Eurest had refused to recognise a union in the workplace and had harassed and dismissed union members, among other claims. Compass denied all of them. Yet a deal was struck between the parties in mid-January in London after several rounds of mediation.

The final statement has typically sterile, legal settlement language. So let’s quote Ron Oswald, the IUF’s General Secretary, instead. He welcomed the deal, saying:

This conflict has lasted for over three years and our agreement with Compass should take us to a more constructive future. I now look forward to the challenge both sides to the agreement will face to ensure that the spirit and letter of the agreement is fully respected.

So what are the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises? And how did they help? The Guidelines are international standards of behaviour expected of multinational enterprises operating in or from the 42 states that have signed up to them. Here’s a previous blog I did summing up the language in the recently updated OECD Guidelines can help unions.

Under the Guidelines, each signatory government is required to set up a National Contact Point (NCP) – a government body hearing complaints and generally promoting the Guidelines. The UK’s own NCP has a decent track record in settling union cases against multinational companies, partly because it offers both professional mediation and a form of arbitration – a good combination for getting companies to the negotiating table (Unfortunately, many NCPs still seem to be little more than glorified in-trays on the desks of over-worked and low-level government officials).

But good results under the Guidelines also need a capable local union able to last the distance, and a Global Union Federation willing to support them. Most importantly, the Guidelines need to be seen as just one tool – an increasingly helpful tool – in a bigger organising campaign.

For more information on filing a complaint under the Guidelines just drop me a line or visit the website of the UK NCP.