Holding MNCs Responsible

Holding MNCs Accountable Through a Strong and Vibrant Membership

Sub-Sahara Africa has recently experienced a new wave of investments by multinational corporations (MNCs), in particular from global South countries such as South Africa, China, Brazil and India. But this increased activity of MNCs needs to be treated with caution: too often it is associated with violations of labour and environmental standards, precarious employment conditions, the neglect of health and safety practices, bribery and tax avoidance. While governments are reluctant to act decisively, it is trade unions and other civil society groups who must push for holding MNCs accountable.

The FES TUCC has partnered with the Global Union Federations (GUFs) in various sectors to devise strategies of challenging the malpractices of the MNCs. These strategies include forcing the MNCs to sign Global Framework Agreements (GFAs) that commit the corporations to respect labour laws and establish mechanisms of dialogue through which unions are able to influence the practices of the corporations. One example is the GFA concluded between UNI Global Union and the South African retailer Shoprite.

Trade union alliances or networks have been set up around key MNCs in the retail, private security and communication sectors, as well as around Chinese MNCs doing business in Africa. These alliances facilitate cross-border solidarity between workers and enable information sharing and joint strategizing. FES TUCC is working closely together with the Labour Research Service (LRS) in order to provide research and company information to the networks. This kind of strategic analysis strengthens unions in collective bargaining processes and in recruitment campaigns. These efforts led to higher unionization levels in the retail sector and in Chinese MNCs, as well as to a higher number of signed Recognition Agreements and Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs).

Furthermore, FES TUCC is cooperating with UNI to drive a campaign around parental rights in the retail sector which is dominated by women workers. Our aim is to make women active and visible and to ensure that their interests become union interests. In the construction sector, we are supporting BWI in shaping a political strategy that responds to the special character of the Chinese investments in Africa, which are mostly initiated by bilateral government agreements and undertaken by China’s state-owned enterprises. At the same time, we are running education programmes targeting worker representatives from the construction sites in order to empower them for instant on-site leadership that can consult and lead members in their daily workplace struggles.

Essential Ressources and Tools for Workers

This subsection offers access to four databases, focusing on:

South African Multinational Corporations (MNCs)

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Existing Agreements (collective agreements, recognition agreements, Global Framework Agreements, etc.) relevant for the African region

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Mining in Southern Africa

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Wages and Conditions of Employment

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These databases were created as a resource for workers and activists by our close partner LRS.

FES Trade Union Competence Centre Sub-Saharan Africa

34, Bompas Road
Dunkeld West

+27-10 446 8612
+27-11 341 0271