Transnational Company Agreements

Over the past two decades, cross-border labour relations have developed steadily but in interesting ways. The steady increase in transnational enterprise agreements (TKA) in a legal “no man`s land” shows the motivation of labour and management relations to address the social consequences of globalization, in most cases in terms of anticipation and participation in changes in sectors such as chemistry, metals, services, wood, food, tourism and textiles. The TTCs are the result of negotiations between the various multinational companies (MNEs) and trade unions at the global and European level. The different terminology used for the name of TTCs varies, from international framework agreements (IFAs) to global framework agreements (GFAs) to global agreements. Recent terminology, emanating from the European Commission, distinguishes international framework agreements and European framework agreements (EFAs). With regard to simple reading, the terminology used in this chapter is the TCA, including international and European framework agreements, specifying, if any, whether IFAs or SEAs are heard in a given context. “When GDF-SUEZ became ENGIE, the company changed its strategy to focus on gas and renewable energy. Unions called for a social component to be included in the new strategy. This agreement sets minimum standards for all companies in the group,” said Sylvain Lefebvre, Deputy Secretary General of IndustriAll Europe.

These agreements apply to all jobs and subsidiaries of a company in Europe or elsewhere abroad. France was the first country to sign transnational agreements in the 1980s, first at Thomson Grand Public (a consumer electronics company) and then at BSN Danone. The Socialist Party was then in power in France, where there were a number of nationalized companies. It was a time when labour relations were very important and France wanted to lead the way. These results indicate that, in practice(1), EECs go beyond their formal function of information and consultation more often than scientists and policy makers – and many trade unions – acknowledge; (2) The regulation of labour relations and working conditions at European level is encouraged by more companies than previously thought. and (3) Since these developments are taking place in a legal vacuum, it is necessary to put in place an optional legal framework at European level, which guarantees trade unions bargaining rights, according to their own internal procedures. It is difficult to assess the number of transnational agreements concluded in recent years by European companies, or even to assess a general trend. The database on transnational enterprise agreements, specially created to give them greater visibility, has been on hold since 2015. Since the establishment of social dialogue in Europe, barely a dozen sectoral agreements have been concluded.

The fault lies with the conflicting objectives of the social partners and the gradual disinvestment of the European Commission. These autonomous and voluntary agreements, concluded within multinational enterprises, could be a less formal version than the two national levels of social dialogue (sectoral and interoccupational) provided for by the European treaties, but which nevertheless constitute a very real part of the agreements between the EU`s social partners. Faced with opposition from employers` organisations, the Commission seems to have abandoned the idea of creating a legal framework for these agreements, including on an optional basis, when it had planned to do so in 2004 to promote such agreements. Multinationals have begun to take the initiative to conclude such agreements, which allow them to give a social image, to help them forge a European corporate culture and to coordinate their personnel policies across borders. In line with the decisions taken in 2015 by the Paris Congress and the Executive Committee, the ETUC presented a model of an optional European legal framework for transnational enterprise agreements (ATTs).

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