Janine Walter

Kurzexposé zum Promotionsvorhaben von Janine Walter

Global Framework Agreements - As a global concept for implementing labour rights

My research focuses on global labour regulation in transnational companies. I am particularly concerned with the instrument of Global Framework Agreements (GFAs) which were negotiated between and signed by Global Union Federations (GUFs) and transnational companies (TNCs). GFAs build increasingly on international principles and instruments such as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) or the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (1976, updated 2011). Generally, however, GFAs include mostly provisions in relation to the ILO Core Conventions. In the context of the increasing popularity of GFAs, research initially concentrated primarily on the declaration of signing as well as on content and scope of GFAs. However, as major discrepancies between formulated and implemented standards became evident it is in recent studies increasingly pointed out that implementation processes of GFAs, in particular, must receive more attention.

The majority of the GFAs have been signed with European companies; only 17 out of 116 are GFAs with Non-European companies, whereas eleven TNCs are from Non-OECD countries. This uneven distribution is probably due to less common experience in social dialogue processes in Non-OECD countries. But to what extent does the concept of GFAs fit in for unions and TNCs from Non-OECD-countries at all? Or can GFAs still be a step towards enforcing global labour rights?

To answer these questions I want to investigate the specifics of GFAs between GUFs and TNCs from Non-OECD countries. Knowing that GFAs are primarily signed in countries with a tradition of social dialogue, I assume that the specific institutional setting at the national level has an impact on transnational labour regulation within companies. Looking at the geographical spread and institutional context of GFAs, the question arises as to what extent differences in the implementation processes of GFAs can be expected in companies from Non-OECD countries. Inspired by the Varieties-of-Capitalism approach I develop theses about the implementation processes of GFAs with regard to the particular forms of capitalism.

However, it is important to consider the role of trade unions in implementation processes as well. It is believed that there are differences between implementation processes in European companies and companies from Non-OECD countries, inter alia because of the different experience in social dialogue of trade unions from Europe. Starting with assumptions from the power-resource approach I want to explore the specific power resources of trade unions involved in the implementation processes. For instance, GUFs should be investigated under the aspects of associational power. What are the differences between GUFs and national or local trade unions strategies or policies? How can they act together in spite of geographical distances? Are there any representatives deficits between GUFs and local actors and in which way do they have an impact on implementation processes? What does trade union identity mean in this context? Furthermore, questions arise regarding the discursive power and coalitional power: Are the allies of trade unions in Non-OECD countries any different from the allies of trade unions in European countries and how do they affect implementation processes?