Cross border social dialogue and agreements

Globalization has generated a mismatch between the scope of the activities of global actors (such as multinational enterprises, or MNEs), which is increasingly transnational, and that if social actors (such as trade unions, social movements, nongovernmental organizations and consumers’ organizations), which remains largely embedded at national level.

In response to this mismatch and in the absence of a state-driven multilateral framework, numerous private initiatives have appeared. Voluntary cross-border social dialogue initiatives and agreements such as International Framework Agreements (IFAs) have been one response.

IFAs are the outcome of negotiations between individual MNEs and global union federations. IFAs aim to establish ongoing relationships between MNEs and such federations, for the benefit of both parties. They are intended to promote principles of labour relations and conditions of work – notably in the area of freedom of association and collective bargaining – and to organize a common labour relations framework at cross border level.

IFAs, together with similar management and unions’ initiatives with a regional focus (e.g., European Framework Agreements (EFAs) covering the European operations of MNEs), constitute major building blocks in an emerging global layer of industrial relations. They can potentially strengthen the links between industrial relations at various levels (international, regional, national and workplace), promote ILO sectoral standards and the industrial relations targets of the ILO Declaration on multinational enterprises (MNEs), and mitigate the impact of the recent crisis on employment and working conditions.

In order to strengthen the knowledge base of the ILO in this emerging area, DIALOGUE is developing a number of research and policy development activities. It is doing so through conducting evidence-based analyses and developing collaborations with practitioners and research institutions, for knowledge exchange and dissemination purposes.


DIALOGUE research focuses on the following themes:
  • The impact of cross-border dialogue and agreements on freedom of association, collective bargaining, non-discrimination, occupational safety and health, and labour migration, across the global value chains of multinationals
  • Cross-border labour-management agreements on company restructuring in the context of crisis
  • Management perspectives on cross-border dialogue and agreements
  • IFAs and sectoral developments
  • The promotion of the ILO Declaration on multinationals through cross-border agreements
  • Cross-border social dialogue and agreements and sustainable enterprises


DIALOGUE has built strong networks with renowned academics and researchers from institutions such as the Freie Universität Berlin, the State University of Colorado, the Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES), the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan/Institutions et Dynamiques Historiques de l'Economie (IDHE), the Centre for Labour Market Studies of the University of Leicester, King’s College, the University of Montréal, Audencia Nantes School of Management, the University of Northumbria, the ILO’s International Institute for Labour Studies (IILS), the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (EUROFOUND), the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), the International Training Centre of the ILO (ITC-Turin), and the ILO’s Better Work.

A number of research projects have been conducted jointly with these partners, and more are planned in the years to come.

DIALOGUE is also collaborating closely with the European Commission (DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities), and is currently building research partnerships with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), several Global Union Federations (GUFs), the International Organization of Employers (IOE), and selected multinational enterprises.

This project is coordinated by Konstantinos Papadakis, Research and Policy Development Specialist.