ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

268th Session
Geneva, March 1997

  Subcommittee on Multinational Enterprises MNE  


Follow-up on and promotion of the Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy

(c) Promotional activities, technical advisory services,
completed studies and current research by the Office

I. Promotional activities and technical advisory services

1. In 1996 priority has had to be given to the sixth survey on the effect given to the Tripartite Declaration, and promotional activities undertaken have been very limited as a result.

2. In July 1996 a mission was undertaken to Africa, the main purpose of which was to participate in an "African Regional Workshop on the Protection of Workers' Rights and Working Conditions in EPZs and the Promotion of the Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy", organized by the Bureau for Workers' Activities (ACTRAV) and held in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Workshop was attended by some 36 delegates from 14 African countries. There were 12 observers, as well as representatives of the ICFTU and ETUC.

3. The Workshop began with a presentation entitled "A global overview of the developments of EPZs, the Tripartite Declaration, and Codes of Conduct and labour and social issues in FDI/MNE activities". Other presentations included: "Export Processing Zones in Mauritius: A review of employment, workers' rights and working conditions and labour relations"; "Labour Standards in Export Processing Zones: A Southern African perspective"; "Protection of the general and working environment in Export Processing Zones"; "Promotion and application of the Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy -- a Workers' point of view"; and "Globalization, Foreign Direct Investment and EPZs".

4. Immediately after the Workshop, discussions were held with the Labour Department, Business South Africa, the National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU), the Federation of South African Unions (FEDSAL) and the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU).

5. In the course of the meetings with the Government and with both labour and management, the idea of a national tripartite seminar on FDI/MNE and the Tripartite Declaration was broached. Since, follow-up discussions have been held and it is hoped that the meeting will be held soon.

6. On the way to South Africa, the opportunity of a stopover in Addis Ababa enabled contacts to be established and discussions held with various donors and diplomatic missions on the funding of the ILO-OAU African Regional Tripartite Seminar on MNEs, FDI, EPZs and labour and social issues, which had been planned for the autumn of 1995 but postponed due to the Office's financial difficulties, and to which the OAU attaches great importance.

7. The series of discussions held did not yield immediate results, since all available funds had already been committed at that stage. However, strong support for the meeting was expressed, and undertakings were made to explore positively both financial and material assistance. The matter is being pursued.

8. At the invitation of the Trade Union Council on MNEs (TCM), the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (JTUC-RENGO), the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) and the Japan Institute of Labour (JIL), the Office participated in a seminar on multinational companies, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 14 to 18 October 1996 and attended by eighteen trade union leaders from Japan and fifteen of their counterparts from Malaysia, all representing different Multinational enterprises. The substantive work at the seminar began with a presentation on "Multinational Enterprises, Foreign Direct Investment, Export Processing Zones and Labour and Social Issues; the Tripartite Declaration and Codes of Conduct". Other topics discussed included labour-management relations in Japan and Malaysia. These were complemented by four other presentations on labour and social issues in Japanese MNEs operating in Malaysia.

9. Each presentation led to very interesting and useful exchanges of views, at the end of which the seminar made the following recommendations:

  1. A closer relationship should be fostered between trade unions in parent multinational companies in Japan and their subsidiaries in Malaysia.
  2. Mutual visits by trade union leaders to their counterparts in both countries should be encouraged.
  3. The trade unions concerned in both countries should work to ensure that Japanese MNEs respect and adhere to national legislation in Malaysia and the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy.
  4. In the event of serious breaches of national laws and practices on the part of Japanese MNEs, the MTUC, JTUC and TCM should work closely to overcome them.
  5. As the value of such seminars is immense, they should be held on a regular basis by the appropriate organizations concerned.

10. In the course of the year (1996) consultations were also held with the Department of Labor and Employment, Government of the Philippines, with regard to an Office initiative dating back to 1995 for the convening of a national tripartite round table on MNEs, FDI, EPZs and labour/social issues. The round table was also the subject of discussions with the Employers' Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), as well as other affiliated groups. All parties warmly welcomed the initiative and reiterated that there was a sense of urgency in convening the meeting. The Philippine Department of Labor and Employment suggested that the meeting be held in July 1996, but due to ongoing work on the Survey, the dates were not suitable for the Office. Preparations are now well advanced and the round table should be held soon.

11. Following discussions with the relevant authorities, the Tripartite Declaration has been translated into Mongolian and Vietnamese.

12. A stand was again maintained at the Palais des Nations for publications during the International Labour Conference. Extensive documentation -- in particular working papers and studies published under the Multinational Enterprises Programme and other relevant information -- was made available to Conference participants. This led to discussions with many representatives of governments, employers and workers on a wide range of issues related to foreign investment, multinational enterprises, export processing zones and the Tripartite Declaration. As in the past, there were a number of requests for seminars, round tables and fellowships.

13. Throughout the year, briefings on the Tripartite Declaration and the ILO's Multinational Enterprises Programme were held with delegates to the International Labour Conference and other ILO meetings; visitors from other UN agencies; government officials; representatives from employers' and workers' organizations; groups on study tours organized either by the ILO or other organizations/institutions; officials taking up posts in field offices and at headquarters; interns and researchers.

14. The Office presented a paper(1) for discussion at, and participated in, a seminar organized jointly by the Office, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the Czech-Moravian Chamber of Trade Unions (MK OS). Held in Prague from 10 to 12 December 1995, the theme of the seminar was "Multinational enterprises in Central and Eastern Europe: New possibilities and challenges for trade unions". It brought together high-level officials of several international trade secretariats (ITSs), the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC), the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and senior representatives of trade unions from several Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs) and Western Europe. One of the aims of the meeting was to facilitate the exchange of information about the social and labour consequences of economic reforms in Central and Eastern Europe, the policies and practices of multinational enterprises (MNEs) and the issues with which unions were confronted in that rapidly changing economic environment. Another was to discuss the various forms of cooperation between national unions in Western European countries, the ITSs, and unions in the CEECs. The third objective was to examine the prospects and modalities for enhancing such cooperation. Participants were apprised of the aims and provisions of the Tripartite Declaration and the ILO's Programme on Multinational Enterprises. There were numerous requests for publications and for the questionnaire for the sixth survey on the effect given to the Tripartite Declaration.

15. In response to a request from a trade union confederation in a major home country of enterprises operating in the maquiladoras in Mexico, the Office provided information on the regulatory framework governing labour-related matters in the zones and the relevance of the Tripartite Declaration for activities in them.

16. In view of the growing number of enquiries about the availability of the Tripartite Declaration on the Internet, the Office is taking steps to make the English, French and Spanish versions of the text accessible by this means.

II. Completed studies and current research in areas
covered by the Tripartite Declaration

17. In its last report to the Subcommittee in November 1995, the Office mentioned that four working papers were to be prepared and that initial steps were being taken, in collaboration with the ILO Office in Dhaka, to commission a working paper on social and labour developments in export processing zones (EPZs) in Bangladesh.(2) Arrangements were finalized and the research is now under way.

18. Two of the four papers on which work had been initiated in 1995 were published in 1996. The situation with respect to employment, working conditions and labour relations in EPZs in the Philippines is the subject of one such paper.(3) The other examines some of the effects that major technological and regulatory changes in multinational enterprises in the telecommunications industry are having on the workforce.(4) Examples are drawn from nine MNEs operating in a sample of industrialized, transitional and developing countries.

19. The working paper on the world's four major MNEs in the courier service industry has been finalized for publication and is scheduled to appear shortly.(5)

20. The research on retailing, initiated in response to Resolution No. 105 adopted by the Committee on Salaried Employees and Professional Workers at its Tenth Session (May 1994), suffered some setbacks on account of difficulties in obtaining certain information.(6) The scope of the research was modified in order to circumvent the problem, and the work has since gathered momentum. The paper, which focuses on the situation of women workers and working conditions in a large locally owned retail enterprise in Canada and a foreign-owned MNE, will be completed in the course of 1997. In order to gain some insight into developments in retailing within the European Union (EU), another paper has been commissioned to examine the impact of the internationalization of retailing on employment and labour relations in selected retail enterprises from the United Kingdom operating within the EU.

Geneva, 30 January 1997.

1 "Multinational enterprises in Central and Eastern European countries: Overview of the social and labour effects" (background paper for discussion), December 1995, 25 pp.

2 GB.264/MNE/1 (1995), paras. 13-16.

3 Remedio, E. M.: Export processing zones in the Philippines: A review of employment, working conditions and labour relations, Multinational Enterprises Programme, Working Paper No. 77 (ILO, Geneva, 1996), 44 pp.

4 Mansell, R. and Tang, P.: Technological and regulatory changes affecting multinational enterprises in telecommunications: Aspects of the impact on the workforce, Multinational Enterprises Programme, Working Paper No. 78 (ILO, Geneva, 1996), 93 pp.

5 Wisniewski, S.: Multinational enterprises in the courier service industry: some aspects of employment and working conditions, Multinational Enterprises Programme, Working Paper No. 79 (forthcoming).

6 GB.264/MNE/1, para.16.

Updated by VC. Approved by NdW. Last update: 26 January 2000.