A Global Union Negotiates in the Telecom Sector

The agreement recognizes human rights in the workplace and protects workers´ rights according to the standards set by the International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions.

Telefonica, a multi-national telecommunications company based in Spain, has negotiated a code of conduct with Union Network International (UNI). Telefonica has 120,00 employees represented by 18 UNI affiliated unions.

The agreement recognizes human rights in the workplace and protects workers’ rights according to the standards set by the International Labor Organization(ILO) Conventions. The General Secretary of UNI and the President of Telefonica signed it on March 12, 2001.

The Globalization of Workers’ Rights

UNI, an international trade union based in Switzerland, has 15.5 million members worldwide and formally began on January 1, 2000.In bringing together approximately 800 unions to negotiate with multi-national companies, UNI is fulfilling labor’s goal of responding to the globalization of the economy with an internationally based labor movement.

Targeting Telecommunications

The telecom sector has changed over the last 20 years – the industry is not as highly unionized as it once was -- because much of the new work is in marketing, sales, and software positions that traditionally have not been unionized. Outsourcing by companies and the increase in new competitors in the industry has also caused problems for unions as organizing the previously unorganized is difficult.

UNI Plans for the Future

UNI will be transferring the experience gained and lessons learned from privatization and liberalization from country to country and union to union. It will be building union alliances to match international employer organizations.

As well it intends to look out for everyone''s interests in the new economy by preserving universal access to the "information society" and avoiding the digital divide – some people having access to telecommunications services while others don''t.

The UNI Telefonica Code of Conduct

- employment is freely chosen (ILO Conventions 29 and 105)

- no employment discrimination by ethnic origin, color, gender, religion or political opinion and equal pay for work of equal value (ILO Conventions 100 and 111)

- child labor is abolished – workers must be over 15 years of age and must not do work that is harmful to their health (ILO Conventions 138 and 182)

- freedom of association – the employer recognizes the employees'' right to form and join trade unions (ILO Convention 87) and their right to bargain collectively (ILO Convention 98)

-the employer recognizes worker representatives and enables them to carry out their function

- no worker to be paid less than the legal minimum wage (ILO Conventions 94, 95 and 131)

-hours of work will not exceed industry standards and overtime will be voluntary where possible (ILO Conventions 1 and 47)

The agreement also covered work issues concerning safety, training, employment stability and a notable clause concerning respect for the environment.

According to ILO Director-General Juan Somavia it is a "landmark agreement for the ILO."By establishing minimum standards for companies and workers in the global economy it marks the beginning -- the globalization of workers'' rights.

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