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Labour standards at multilateral development banks

31 May, 2023

The ITUC has published a manual on how to use binding labour safeguards at multilateral development banks to demand the respect of labour rights. This includes a method of notifying institutions when a company that receives a loan is in breach of fundamental rights.

The manual provides information on how the banks operate, the contents of the labour safeguards, tracking proposed and ongoing loan projects, engaging with the banks and how to raise complaints when workers’ rights are violated. A quick guide provides the essential information to take action, followed by thorough information on successful use of the safeguards.

Trade unions have used the safeguards to improve working conditions, organise and collectively bargain. When disputes arise, unions can find out if a development bank is connected to the worksite and use the safeguards. In other cases, unions can monitor proposed loans and ensure that labour rights are upheld by the bank and borrower from the start.

Although the safeguards are binding, violations by borrowers and subcontractors remain too common. Trade unions continue to demand that the multilateral development banks conduct adequate due diligence and monitoring to ensure respect for the safeguards. Some of the problems in implementation arise from gaps in the labour safeguards, such as restrictive language on national law and the freedom of association.

The guide provides trade unions with the information to press for better safeguards when the banks conduct periodic policy reviews.

Photo: ©Ahmad Al-Basha/Gabreez/ILO