Global Framework Agreements and Trade Unions as Monitoring Agents in Transnational Corporations


In combining the micropolitics approach in international management, the industrial relations literature and business ethics, this article conceptualizes global framework agreements as an alliance between central CSR managers of transnational corporations and central actors within trade unions to monitor subsidiaries in the implementation of CSR policies. The empirical investigation, based on the qualitative analysis of ten French multinational companies, confirms the relevance of such a conceptualization. It particularly shows that central CSR managers hope mobilizing the union network to increase their capacity to supervise subsidiaries. Over there, it helps understanding concrete mechanisms adopted to implement global framework agreements since, in some of the studied cases, the managerial and union channels are coordinated precisely to strengthen this capacity. It, then, highlights the procedural nature of policies regarding global framework agreements. Overall, this paper examines the conditions necessary for mobilization of the union network and suggests avenues for future research.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    We use this title in a generic way to refer to the manager responsible for the negotiation and implementation of the GFA; in fact, she or he can be the industrial relations manager.

  2. 2.

    Interviews with international union representatives were conducted via telephone.

  3. 3.

    The Rana Plaza collapse was a structural failure that occurred on April 24, 2013, in Bangladesh. A total of 1134 people died and 2500 were injured. It is considered the deadliest garment factory accident and the deadliest accidental structural failure in modern human history.


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This study was funded by the Paris office of the International Labour Organization.

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Correspondence to Rémi Bourguignon.

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Bourguignon, R., Garaudel, P. & Porcher, S. Global Framework Agreements and Trade Unions as Monitoring Agents in Transnational Corporations. J Bus Ethics (2019).

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  • Global framework agreement
  • Global union federation
  • Trade union network
  • Monitoring