The role of international and national labour organizations is distinct from both business and other elements of civil society. Internationally recognized labour standards, including the fundamental rights reflected in the Global Compact's ten principles, are developed in a tripartite process in which business and labour play critical and central roles.
The Ten Principles of the Global Compact are all supported by trade unions and are related. They are all relevant to good governance and democracy and to long-term, sustainable development.
Besides their important tasks of representing workers and bargaining collective agreements with employers, trade unions often participate in ongoing social dialogue involving the social partners (government, employers, and labour) at local, regional, national and international levels. These discussions can include everything from traditional industrial relations, to sustainable economic and industrial policy, health and safety, and other issues.
Internationally, Global Framework Agreements between multinational businesses and Global Union Federations are of growing importance in creating structured dialogue and partnership between workers and management. Trade unions are also actively engaged with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to adopt and implement good international labour standards; and with other international institutions to adopt and implement standards and principles that advance trade union rights and decent work.
Respect for human rights, including the human rights of workers, is the minimum starting point for socially sustainable cultures and communities. Representing the human side of business, trade unions call upon the global business community to commit itself to fully respecting and promoting human rights as outlined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the labour standards of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Trade unions fully support the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and are willing to co-operate with companies to apply them.
The structures of the international trade union movement well equip it to coherently participate in global action. They are representative organizations that bring together millions of workers in all regions of the world. They have long traditions of internal democracy, transparency, and accountability to their members.
Global Compact participants pledge to support the Ten Principles within their organizations and with others. The following outlines ways in which trade unions can engage and participate.
The Global Compact was intended to be a dialogue-driven organization. To the extent that it provides a forum for dialogue with companies and others, it can address important global issues and help to build consensus. It should have the effect of re-enforcing and encouraging global social dialogue including facilitating discussions that may lead to structured social dialogue in the form of global framework agreements.
As an initiative, the UN Global Compact has established more than 100 Local Networks throughout the world. These networks are designed as multi-stakeholder "chapters" to advance the UN Global Compact at the local level, through the implementation of the Ten Principles and partnership projects. Trade unions may wish to contact the focal points of the relevant Local Network(s) to explore the value of and possibilities for participation. The focal points and their contact information can be found under Local Networks.
There is most often a large gap between the practices and reporting of companies. Trade unions, through their interaction with companies, can help them to improve respect for human rights and engage in processes that lead to better support for Global Compact principles. They can also encourage effective due diligence with respect to company rights obligations. Trade unions rights cases are the most common area for which the integrity principles are invoked. To the extent that they are useful, trade unions can consider using them to help correct violations of rights and of company pledges to support the Ten Principles of the Global Compact.