Topic cluster : Regulation

Powerful corporate interests have succeeded over many years in weakening or eliminating legislation which regulates the private sector, through lobbying governments, corporate-friendly trade agreements and indeed through corrupt practices. This corporate capture of government is a major threat to a future that ensures good and sustainable jobs, secure incomes on which people can build a decent life, tax justice and a range of other matters which are crucial to prosperity for the many rather than the few.

The 2016 ITUC Global Rights Index revealed an increase of 22% in the number of countries with restrictions on freedom of speech, association and assembly, that 82 out of 141 countries surveyed exclude workers from labour law and that more than half exclude all or some workers from collective bargaining. Legal frameworks governing the employment relationship have also been eroded in many countries. Where good laws and regulations do exist, they are too often not enforced, while in some of the world’s richest countries in the Gulf, the total absence of rights leaves workers in modern slavery. Reversing the erosion of workers’ rights, by ensuring that governments fulfil their responsibilities to regulate, must be a central objective of trade union action around the future of work. Workers in the ‘digital economy’ must have the same rights and protections, including the ILO’s core labour standards, as other workers. Along with this, questions around regulation in a number of other areas will be vitally important. These include:

Global rules for global supply chains: With 50 of the world’s largest multinationals having a “hidden workforce” of 94% of the workers in their supply chains, governments, in particular in the home countries of these companies, need to make them legally accountable for due diligence throughout their supply chains, for ensuring fundamental rights and safe work for the entire workforce and for ensuring justice where rights are violated.
Modern Slavery: Some governments are now legislating to hold companies accountable specifically on the scandal of modern slavery in their businesses at home and abroad. Analysis of this legislation, its impact and enforcement and its deficiencies, will provide useful tools for the fight against modern slavery as a basis for political demands for governments everywhere to introduce legal requirements on companies, with appropriate penalties for non-compliance.

Definition of a business: companies such as Uber effectively operate in the informal sector, avoiding responsibility for the rights and entitlements of their global workforce. The ability of such companies to operate within, and often outside, the law, has major implications for workers, for tax receipts, public safety and a range of other areas.
Data protection and digital rights: employer monitoring and surveillance of workers is increasing dramatically, and related concerns about the vast collection, analysis and manipulation of data by large corporations, legal frameworks around the rights of individuals and groups to protection of their data, need also to be considered. The growing importance of algorithms being used to substitute decision-making by people is also leading to calls for regulation of how algorithms are deployed and for what purposes. The creator of the World Wide Web is now also warning about data abuse and the use of algorithms to influence elections, in ways that circumvent electoral law.

Competition law: the emergence of a relatively small number of multinational corporations into positions of dominance in the data marketplace globally poses major questions about the extent to which competition regulators are equipped and willing to ensure a level playing field, as well as to the adequacy of current competition laws and the extent of international cooperation in this field.

Taxation: Many of the multinational companies which derive all or much of their profits from collecting, manipulating and selling data are notorious for tax avoidance, and the expansion of internet-mediated production and services threatens to deprive governments of even more tax revenues. Some in the industry such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates now call for a “robot tax” even as Microsoft itself has faced criticism over its tax affairs.