Subcontracting and Labour Standards: Reassessing the Potential of International Framework Agreements

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Abstract

Attempts to regulate labour standards in multinational companies face clear difficulties, not least because companies themselves may not have the executive power to enforce terms throughout complex and fragmented subcontracting structures. In the case of international framework agreements (IFAs), this might suggest a fundamental weakness. Taking our example from the South African construction industry, this article presents an IFA in the context of both employer and union strategy. We demonstrate that a two-track approach exists: highly interventionist approach to quality-critical issues compared with labour-related issues. On this basis, we suggest that, far from being over-hyped, IFAs have yet to be taken seriously enough.

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