Research Handbook on Transnational Labour Law
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Research Handbook on Transnational Labour Law

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.
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Chapter 6: Due diligence on labour issues – Opportunities and limits of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Anne Trebilcock


The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights of 2011 have recently embraced a human-rights, due-diligence framework for companies, placing rights at work in a new operational context, while raising a range of new questions. Is the risk management concept of due diligence a good choice for reinforcing corporate social responsibility in relation to labour issues? How can the due diligence construct be put into practice meaningfully by firms when it comes to rights at work as reflected particularly in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights? Which factors are important to make a due diligence exercise more than just going through the motions? How can a company’s engaging in due diligence be effectively monitored? These questions are each taken up in this chapter. Ultimately, the ease of using business due diligence leaves it a blunt instrument in furthering labour rights, not fully contending with its relationship to the enterprise’s own workers, to workers in enterprises linked to it in the supply chain, or to collective labour relations. The fundamental mismatch between the global direction of corporate structures and strategies and the nation-based paradigm of labour rights and even transnational labour rights imposes a basic constraint on the due diligence framework’s capacity to deal with such issues. Due diligence will nonetheless remain one tool among many to further respect for individual and collective labour rights.

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