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Wednesday, November 28 • 11:40am - 1:00pm
Labour union perspectives on ways to scale up effective human rights due diligence

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Session organized by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

Brief description of the session:
The ITUC will hold a panel discussion during the 2018 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights on conducting due diligence with respect to freedom of association, and engaging with trade unions in conducting due diligence, including with regard to remedy.
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) make it clear that the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, at a minimum, covers the rights set forth in the International Bill of Human Rights and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. These instruments include the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, meaning that companies have a responsibility to conduct due diligence to “know and show” that they respect these rights.
In addition, to conducting due diligence on the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, companies should engage with trade unions as stakeholders throughout the entire due diligence process. The newly adopted OECD Due Diligence Guidance on Responsible Business Conduct provides practical examples of such engagement, including company-trade union agreements. The OECD guidance also recognises that industrial relations is a form of stakeholder engagement. Moreover, following its most recent update in 2017, the ILO MNE Declaration now highlights the central role of freedom of association and collective bargaining in the due diligence process.
Despite positive developments in the governance framework, in practice the right to freedom of association continues to be misunderstood, and even opposed. Indeed, far from being considered part of due diligence, industrial relations are generally considered as separate, with good practices with respect to due diligence on freedom of association on the one hand, and engagement with trade unions on the other, being rare in the business and human rights discourse.

Session objectives:
Such a panel discussion would therefore be critical in allowing the ITUC to:
  • Raise awareness of the types of actions by companies that may lead to adverse impacts on the right to freedom of association;
  • Identify practical steps that companies can take to conduct due diligence on freedom of association;
  • Discuss effective approaches to meaningful engagement with trade unions, and identify their enabling factors.

Key discussion questions:
  • What practical actions does the new OECD Due Diligence Guidance recommend with regard to conducting due diligence on freedom of association and engaging trade unions in conducting due diligence?
  •  What are the most prevalent abuses of the right to freedom of association in the Korean metal sector?
  •  What are the practical steps that a company should take to conduct effective due diligence on respect for the right of freedom of association?
  •  What does successful company-trade union collaboration look like in practice?

Moderator/ Introductory Remark...
avatar for Makbule Sahan

Makbule Sahan

Legal Director, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
Makbule is leading the ITUC’s work on international labour standards and human rights mechanisms, litigation in regional and national courts, business and human rights, labour law and the ITUC Global Rights Index.


Kirstine Drew

Senior Policy Advisor, Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC)
OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
avatar for Peter Rossman

Peter Rossman

Director, Campaigns and Communication, International Union of Food Workers (IUF)

Sunho Tak

Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU)

Wednesday November 28, 2018 11:40am - 1:00pm CET