Table of Contents

Research Handbook on Transnational Labour Law

Research Handbook on Transnational Labour Law

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Adelle Blackett and Anne Trebilcock

The editors’ substantive introduction and the specially commissioned chapters in the Handbook explore the emergence of transnational labour law as a field, along with its contested contours. The expansion of traditional legal methods, such as treaties, is juxtaposed with the proliferation of contemporary alternatives such as indicators, framework agreements and consumer-led initiatives. Key international and regional institutions are studied for their coverage of such classic topics as freedom of association, equality, and sectoral labour standard-setting, as well as for the space they provide for dialogue. The volume underscores transnational labour law’s capacity to build bridges, including on migration, climate change and development.

Chapter 15: Freedom of association in international framework agreements

Renée-Claude Drouin

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, labour, employment law, public international law


Global Union Federations (GUFs) have been concerned with the undermining of worker rights by the transnational corporations (TNCs) since the 1970s. This worry has not been abated by comprehensive sets of binding international rules, as none exists; by national laws, as these have proved relatively ineffective at doing so; nor by TNC corporate codes of conduct, too often characterised by deficient normative content and inadequate follow-up mechanisms, which sometimes even undermine legitimate worker representation. GUFs have therefore developed their own regulatory model: international framework agreements (IFAs). IFAs are characterised by the conjunction of four elements that constitute the building blocks of the concept: the involvement of one or more GUFs in the negotiation and signing of an agreement with a TNC; a rights content usually derived from International Labour Organization instruments; some form of procedure to review the implementation of the agreement; and a provision concerning subsidiaries, suppliers and business partners. This chapter discusses the negotiation of IFAs, their use as a tool for social dialogue and organizing, as well as challenges in achieving compliance and potential solutions.

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