Global unions demand stronger protections for working people in negotiations for business and human rights treaty

photo: ILO Abdel Hameed Al Nasier​

Corporate human rights abuses will be in the spotlight at the latest round of talks for an international agreement to regulate transnational corporations in human rights law.

The ITUC and the Global Unions Federations have outlined their demands for a significantly stronger-worded text to be part of discussions on an international agreement aimed to regulate transnational corporations in human rights law. The discussions will form part of the ninth session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group (OEIGWG) hosted by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC),

Progress in national corporate human rights laws and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles are holding companies accountable for human rights abuses, but the patchwork of different rules at national and regional levels allows many companies to circumvent their human rights responsibilities.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to close a major gap in international human rights law and end the impunity for corporate human rights abuses. We will engage constructively in the process and demand changes to the draft law to better guarantee the rights of working people,” said ITUC General Secretary Luc Triangle.

After reviewing the draft text, the global unions call for:

  • A closer alignment with the third draft text, which enjoyed wide support, as a basis for this session.
  • Stronger and more detailed provisions to correspond with the original mandate of the UNHRC to effectively constrain corporate impunity, particularly on prevention, access to remedy, legal liability and jurisdiction.
  • The reinstatement of language related to the climate crisis, in particular business obligations to prevent, mitigate and remedy environmental harm, and the establishment of a human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

Luc Triangle added: “There are some improvements in the draft text, in relation to access to information, legal aid and stakeholder consultation. But, almost a decade into this process, working people deserve to have their best interests at the heart of this agreement.

“That means meaningful consultation with trade unions throughout the process, effective measures to address labour rights violations and abuses, recognition of the international consensus that business has a key role in responding to environmental challenges, and firmly embedding in law the right to a just transition to a sustainable economy.

“We strongly believe that we can build consensus and deliver a law that closes this big gap in international law and protects the interests of working people from violations and abuses by transnational corporations and other business entities.

Regulating highly exploitative global supply chains is a critical step to building a strong global economy. From human rights abuses of migrant workers at Amazon warehouses in Saudi Arabia to the practices of fashion brands in Myanmar mean companies can no longer hide corporate human rights abuses. It is time to bring international law up to date and put in place regulations that will stop these practices of human rights abuses.”

UN negotiations for a business and human rights treaty take place in Geneva, Switzerland, 23-27 October.