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Baseline expectations for asset managers on fundamental labour rights

13 July, 2022The Global Unions’ Committee on Workers’ Capital (CWC) has released its baseline expectations for asset managers on fundamental labour rights. Developed by trade unions and pension fund board members as part of the CWC Asset Manager Accountability Initiative, the expectations will help asset owners hold the asset managers they contract accountable on fundamental labour rights. 

Global asset managers invest capital on behalf of workers’ retirement savings funds. Pension fund trustees who sit on the boards of these funds and participate in the CWC network expect that their managers will uphold their responsibilities to mitigate adverse labour rights impacts in their investments, and positively address labour grievances when raised. Likewise, other types of asset owner vehicles, including foundations and religious investors, also have growing expectations of their managers.

“Global asset managers can hold sizeable stakes in public and private market investments where fundamental labour rights, such as the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, are violated. Asset owners can now use the Baseline Expectations to drive actions by asset managers to use their influence and ultimately drive impact on the ground for workers whose rights are violated,” says said Paddy Crumlin, president of the International Transport Workers’ Federation and chair of the CWC’s Asset Manager Accountability Initiative Working Group.

The baseline expectations progress from baseline into good practices and are divided in four categories from which to assess an asset manager’s level of commitment to respecting and upholding fundamental labour rights:

(1) Stewardship framework
(2) Stewardship practices in public equities (proxy voting and shareholder engagement)
(3) Stewardship practices in private markets
(4) Policy advocacy

The framework is anchored in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises which lay out investor responsibilities to carry out due diligence and prevent or mitigate adverse environmental and social impacts. 

"Global investors, especially pension fund investors, invest our money and we demand the same respect for basic trade union rights from these investments as we do in our own workplaces. There is no compromise on the right to organize and bargain collectively. These baseline expectation need to be taken seriously by all investors,”

says IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie.

The baseline expectations were developed collaboratively by trade union officials and pension fund trustees affiliated to unions, including: the Australian Council of Trade Unions (Australia), AFL-CIO (USA), Comisiones Obreras (Spain), FNV (Netherlands), the International Trade Union Confederation, UNI Global Union, the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the Trade Union Advisory Committee.