GENEVA (ILO News) - The Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Juan Somavia, today hailed an agreement on a Code of Conduct signed by the Spanish-based telecommunications giant Telefónica and the global Union Network International (UNI) as a historical milestone in industrial relations.
"We are making history here today," Mr. Somavia said after meeting with Telefónica President Cesar Alierta and UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings to mark the signing of the accord. "We are entering a different world where there are fundamental changes, and one of the challenges for the ILO is to accomplish this transformation while maintaining our fundamental values. This is a landmark agreement for the ILO."
Added Mr. Alierta: "With this agreement, we are anticipating the 21 st century. This is a common effort to continue an on-going dialogue between trade unions and enterprises because this is the only way to create progress and development. We in Telefónica believe that and have always supported the work of the trade unions."
The new Code of Conduct covers labour rights for some 120,000 workers employed around the globe by Telefónica, and represented by 18 labour unions affiliated to UNI which was founded in January 2000 and groups together over 15.5 million skills and services members of some 800 trade unions worldwide.
Union officials said the Telefónica agreement was the first of a series of planned global accords with multi-national corporations that are based on ILO Conventions and Recommendations.
This new agreement between Telefónica and UNI spells out the adherence of both sides to ILO core labour standards covering freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, discrimination, forced labour and child labour. It is also based on other ILO Conventions and Recommendations concerning, among others, minimum wages, hours of work, occupational safety and health, freely chosen employment and discrimination - a total of some 20 ILO Conventions and Recommendations in all.
"As time goes by, there will be many more global agreements like this," Mr. Jennings said. "Telefónica and UNI are setting the mark rather high. As the business world is becoming increasingly global, so unions too have to respond on a global level to ensure basic trade union and working rights."