The ETUC and ITUC have expressed strong support for the efforts by its French affiliates to defend the new law requiring French multinational companies to establish vigilance plans to avoid and remedy violations of fundamental rights and environmental standards throughout their supply chains and operations. Two days after the adoption of the law on 21 February, Members and Senators from the Republican Party, backed by employer organisation MEDEF, referred the issue to France’s Constitutional Council claiming that the law is unconstitutional.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “This law is a significant step towards ensuring that companies take responsibility for their entire supply chain, for the workers and communities who create the wealth from which company owners and shareholders profit. France is leading the way, and other countries should follow suit. Having lost the political argument, opponents of the law are now trying to have the law overturned on questionable constitutional grounds, even as the failed global supply chain model with all the damage it wreaks on working families and on the environment comes under the scrutiny it deserves. We fully support the work of our French member organisations and others in civil society to make sure this law becomes a reality.”
Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said “globalisation requires supply chain responsibility. It cannot just be voluntary. Companies should have legal responsibility to buy products and services from bona fide enterprises that offer decent pay and working conditions and respect environmental standards. France is taking the lead and should not be stopped by bogus constitutional arguments. The ETUC urges France to go ahead, and for other EU countries to do the same. Ultimately I would like to see EU law backing such a stance, but EU action should not hold up the pioneers.”
In the four years since the first steps towards the adoption of the law, which simply requires larger companies to develop and implement a plan to ensure that their activities and those of their sub-contractors and suppliers avoid damaging fundamental rights and the environment, employer organisations have been in opposition, claiming that voluntary “corporate social responsibility” is sufficient.
“The corporate social responsibility industry is worth billions in terms of public relations for companies, but it is worth virtually nothing to the workers in global supply chains, millions of whom work in deplorable conditions without even the dignity of a living minimum wage or protection from occupational disease and injury,” said Burrow.