Supranational Complaint Mechanisms and Global Union Campaigns

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Michele FORD, The University of Sydney, Australia
Michael GILLAN, University of Western Australia, Australia
Global Unions support campaigns in various forms (corporate, country-based, thematic and campaigns to support local union affiliates) but the interaction between these and other repertories of action and forms of leverage has remained largely unexamined. This paper takes up this task with reference to the interaction between global union federation campaigns and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, one of the oldest international mechanisms for addressing complaints about the conduct and practices of multinational corporations. First formulated in 1976, the Guidelines were initially designed as a normative guide for firms headquartered in OECD member countries. However, revisions in 2000 and in 2011 saw the creation of a ‘specific instances’ mechanism through which unions and other interested parties can raise complaints and resolve disputes related to alleged breaches of the Guidelines. This mechanism includes a significant role for ‘national contact points’ located in the member states of the OECD and other adhering nations, which not only receive and assess complaints but also participate in promoting dialogue and dispute resolution between complainants and the multinational enterprise in question. The latter typically involves the facilitation of direct meetings and mediated dialogue to resolve disputes, although participation in these processes remains voluntary. Based on an analysis of descriptive statistics generated from an original database of all specific instance complaints lodged between 2000 and 2016 and qualitative assessment of a selected number of GUF complaints that were supported by wider campaign interventions, the paper suggests that while the use of the complaint mechanism can be effective when backed by a strategic and sustained campaign intervention, GUFs differ in the extent to which they combine these tactics and, when they do so, the effect is moderated and conditioned by the efficacy of the GUF and the particular characteristics of the MNE in question.