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No. 49/2000

2 June 2000

The following is from the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM):


Globalised labour relations take a step forward this week as the world's industrial trade union leaders meet in Brussels to select target companies for global networks and agreements.

The union leaders from all continents are taking part in the Presidium and Executive Committee sessions of the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM).

The Brussels meetings, from 31 May to 2 June, are the first since the ICEM World Congress in Durban, South Africa, last November.

That Congress set the ICEM a target of global campaigning and networking within major multinationals in its sectors. It also mandated the ICEM to negotiate global agreements with companies, notably on trade union rights, health, safety and environment and equality at work.

The aim is to ensure consistently high standards worldwide by securing the right of the ICEM and its member unions to monitor companies' global performance on these and other issues, and to raise any alleged breaches of the agreements with corporate headquarters management.

This is the crucial difference between global agreements and companies' own self-declared and self-assessed codes of conduct. The ICEM emphasises that such agreements are also in the best interests of the companies and their stakeholders, as they give substance and credibility to corporate ethics.

New ICEM President John Maitland and General Secretary Fred Higgs were elected on a platform of achieving global agreements and of creating the necessary global trade union networks within the companies concerned.

Target multinationals under discussion this week are headquartered in Germany, France, Japan, Italy, the UK, the Netherlands and the Nordic countries.

"Dialogues are currently underway with, among others, Shell, Rio Tinto, BP Amoco and Freudenberg," Higgs said. "In a number of cases, draft texts have been exchanged. Discussions are particularly far advanced with Freudenberg, the German-headquartered rubber multinational. We hope to finalise an agreement with them by the end of June."

The ICEM already has a company-level global agreement with oil multinational Statoil.

Talks are continuing with the chemical companies' world body, the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA), over plans for the first-ever global sectoral agreement. This would concern the chemical companies' Responsible Care programme, which aims to achieve the highest standards of occupational health and safety and of environmental protection. ICEM participation in the monitoring and implementation of Responsible Care would help to ensure consistently high standards worldwide.

"We are already in a serious dialogue with the ICCA," Higgs said. "By the time we meet them again in Tokyo this November, we will be very close to signing a global agreement on Responsible Care."


Individual ICEM UPDATE items can be supplied in other languages on request.

Our print magazines ICEM INFO and ICEM GLOBAL are available in Arabic, English, French, German, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.

Visit us on the Net at

ICEM avenue Emile de Beco 109, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium. tel.+32.2.6262020 fax +32.2.6484316 E-mail:

Editor: Ian Graham, Information Officer

Publisher: Fred Higgs, General Secretary.


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