The globalisation process has led to employment and social policy issues being discussed beyond the national and European framework and increasingly also at international level. The most important institution in the field of international social policy is the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a specialist agency of the United Nations which plays a key role in formulating and implementing international labour and social standards (above all the core labour standards). Thanks to its tripartite structure – unique within the UN system – ILO bodies comprise representatives of workers and employers alongside government delegates. For German employers, BDA is actively involved in the deliberations of the annual International Labour Conference and is also represented in ILO’s Governing Body.
Yet international social policy is no longer restricted to ILO but is increasingly also on the agenda of important global governance forums such as the “Group of Twenty” (G20). In the wake of the economic and financial crisis, employment and social policy themes such as youth employment, education and demography have gained greater importance in the G20 process. Ahead of G20 summit meetings, BDA is engaged through the B20 process (“Business 20”) and feeds the interests of employers into the G20 process jointly with representatives of the industry-wide national business organisations of the twenty largest industrialised and emerging countries.
Representation of employer interests at international level takes place in close coordination with the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and OECD’s Business and Industry Advisory Committee. BIAC brings together employer and industrial federations from OECD Member States and acts as the voice of business in OECD. BDA takes part in various BIAC committees including the employment and social affairs committee or the education committee. BDA also worked actively on revision of the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises through BIAC.
New challenges for global industrial relations
In addition to its role as the voice of employers in ILO, the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) increasingly plays a strategic role in shaping employer-worker relations at global level. Globalisation has led to international sectoral trade union alliances at global level organising more thoroughly and more strategically. Thus, trade unions jointly with non-governmental organisations are increasingly globally networked at international level for asserting worker rights. Moreover, trade unions are also visibly using their international work for their own organisational objectives of gaining members and institutional strengthening.
An important instrument for the work of trade unions at international level are the so-called International Framework Agreements (IFAs). With these IFAs concluded between individual companies and international sectoral trade unions, trade unions are creating access to the workforces of companies and trying to increase their degree of organisation there. In parallel to IFAs, global trade union organisations are having recourse to new techniques such as global campaigning in which individual companies are exposed to worldwide campaigns on a targeted basis (e.g. Internet and press campaigns, mass mailings, protest letters and actions). This development can be traced first and foremost to the growing influence of US trade unions which in recent years have given up their abstinence in the international field and are actively working on the strategy development of the International Trade Union Alliance and international sectoral trade unions. Thus, the techniques of global campaigning hitherto restricted to the USA are also being used at the international level. A new element is that local conflicts between management and an individual national trade union confederation becomes an international issue vie the international sectoral trade union which also leads to solidarity actions in the home country of the group in question.
To strengthen the representation of employer interests in global industrial relations and offer companies concrete assistance in this regard, IOE – prompted by BDA – has founded the Global Industrial Relations Network (GIRN) in which member companies of IEO federations can participate. Here they can find not only a platform for a specific exchange of experience on international social policy and industrial relations but can also exchange with other global companies on concrete problems, specifically with framework agreements and global campaigning.
International networks offer companies concrete added value
BDA is able to offer its members rapid and efficient assistance in responding to concrete labour law and personnel policy questions abroad via an actively cultivated network of worldwide contacts. In addition, BDA uses the contacts with and through IOE to draw attention to challenges of international personnel policy in the interest of companies. These international networks provide BDA members with concrete added value, in particular also in light of the growing international mobility of skilled workers and managers. Completion of the single market and globalisation have led to companies increasingly being active across borders. As a result, the mobility of managers and specialists is also increasing. Despite the ever stronger intermeshing of the world economy, labour law, labour market and social systems in EU Member States are highly diverse and based on fundamentally different economic and social traditions. This applies even more for legal systems outside the EU. On the one hand, globally oriented companies can use national differences to achieve competition advantages. On the other hand, management of interfaces (e.g. recourse to national expert knowledge) leads to considerable costs for companies. BDA flanks these issues actively with member companies and has taken concrete examples to examine what contribution an adjustment of European regulation can make to solving challenges faced by companies. Moreover, BDA also uses bilateral contacts to address concrete problems locally, e.g. in social insurance law.
International networks strengthen BDA’s work
Increasingly, employment and social policy issues are discussed at international level. BDA represents the interests of its members in international organisations and global forums. In addition, BDA’s international work also comprises numerous network activities, from which member federations benefit. This involves above all maintaining contact with cross-sectoral national business organisations around the world to which BDA is connected through the International Organisation of Employers (IOE).