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Human rights due diligence is key to protecting workers

14 June, 2023Human rights due diligence is essential for protecting and promoting workers' rights. It requires companies take real steps to identify, prevent, and address any adverse human rights impacts resulting from their operations. 

Trade unions have an important role to play in due diligence, as workers are often vulnerable to exploitation and abuse in various industries and regions.

For global brands and suppliers to practice due diligence there needs to be meaningful mutual engagement and it needs to be conducted in good faith. 

In early June, the European Parliament adopted its position on a future EU Directive on human rights and environmental due diligence. The vote of the Parliament’s report on the proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive is an important step in putting people and planet before the profits and making all businesses accountable. 

Global Framework Agreements (GFAs) are another way to protect the interests of workers across a multinational company’s operations. GFAs are negotiated on a global level between trade unions and a multinational company. They put in place the very best standards of trade union rights, health, safety and environmental practices, and quality of work principles across a company's global operations, regardless of whether those standards exist in an individual country. 

By signing a GFA, a multinational company accepts the responsibility to protect and respect fundamental workers’ rights, in particular the right to organize and bargain collectively, and to exercise due diligence concerning the impact of its operations on human rights in its production facilities and along its supply chain. IndustriALL has several existing GFAs with many multinational corporations. 

The Japan Council of Metalworkers (JCM) published a guide called Trade unions’ role and responses to human rights due diligence for its affiliates. The union submitted its comment on the guideline to the parliamentary vice-minister of economy, trade and industry (METI), Kazuchika Iwata in June 2022. In a meeting with IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan in September 2022, IndustriALL vice president and JLC president Akira Takakura, said that Japanese unions play a vital role in ensuring that multinational companies respect human rights in its supply chains. 

IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie said:

“human rights due diligence must always be an integral part of our work. We need to hold companies accountable for violations, but we also need to put measures in place to make sure that there are no violations. The time when companies could make profit out of the exploitation of the environment and on the back of their and their suppliers’ workers’ fundamental rights all over the world, has to come to an end.”