Elizabeth Boomer of the AFL-CIO International Affairs Department sends us this report.
Food service giant Sodexo, with 391,000 employees worldwide—including some 18,000 in the United States—and International Union of Food Workers (IUF), have signed an agreement confirming Sodexo’s commitment to respect fundamental rights at work, namely freedom of association and collective bargaining. The IUF includes 336 unions with 12 million members in 120 countries.
Known as an “international framework agreement (IFA),” it provides for a continual and progressive dialogue between Sodexo management, Sodexo employee representatives and the IUF. It is the first of its kind in the industry and IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald says:
This agreement provides a concrete tool to help ensure that Sodexo workers across the world have access to their fundamental rights.
IFAs can be a positive tool for workers and unions, unlike voluntary codes of conduct that corporations adopt unilaterally—often as window dressing to give an impression of a commitment to corporate social responsibility.
The agreement is not just about recognizing that Sodexo workers have rights, but also addresses, at least in part, how workers can access those rights. The agreement provides a process through which everyone can hammer out issues by engaging in ongoing discussions, and calls for mediation if the parties cannot bridge their differences.
Debbie Anderson, director of the International Department at UNITE HERE, which represents workers at many U.S. Sodexho operations, called the IFA “a very positive step.”
UNITE HERE has always had a good relationship with Sodexo. Now workers in countries where adequate protections or rights don’t exist will also have a way forward. We look forward to working with Sodexo and the IUF to help implement this agreement, which is one of the best IFA’s I have seen.