Labour Research November 2021

European news

Unions exert pressure over rights

Representatives of the European Trade Union Confederation and industry unions at European level have met the European Commission (EC) to press for rapid progress on a proposed new directive covering multinationals’ international behaviour.

The intention of those supporting a directive is to put in place legislation that would compel companies operating in the EU to monitor their global supply chains to ensure that no company involved is breaching human rights or environmental standards. This would involve requiring companies to publish details of how they monitor suppliers’ behaviour, with a grievance procedure to allow external bodies to raise concerns.

Companies whose suppliers were found to have to have breached human rights or damaged the environment would face penalties.

On 10 March, the European parliament adopted a resolution calling on the EC to produce a directive along these lines, and it was initially expected that it would appear in June.

However, the publication date has slipped, with no agreed timetable for publication when the unions met the EC on 30 September.

As well as telling the EC that further delay would be “unacceptable”, the unions have specific concerns.

In particular, they want to ensure that: sanctions imposed for breaches of the directive are sufficient; unions have a clear role in the process; the right to join unions and to strike are seen as fundamental human rights; aggressive tax avoidance is also considered; and the directive has a wide scope including franchise networks.