Briefing 8.1 - Social dialogue and working in partnership

4. Collective bargaining agreements

Well-functioning industrial relations including collective bargaining are keys to achieving fair living wages and improved working conditions in our supply chain. We believe that the (H&M) collaboration with IndustriALL and IF Metall will contribute to our already ongoing work within this field as well as help to create stable sourcing markets. (H&M CEO, Karl-Johan Persson November 2015)


Collective bargaining is the main way in which employers and trade unions can agree working conditions and terms of employment in areas such as fair wages, working time, training, occupational safety and health and equal treatment between women and men. Negotiations are held to arrive at a collective agreement, which also addresses the rights and responsibilities of the parties to the agreement, as well as the monitoring of the implementation of the agreement.

Although gender-based violence is a relatively new issue in collective bargaining, mobilization of women in unions and wider civil society has led to better awareness that gender-based violence is an occupational safety and health risk and can lead to lost productivity, absenteeism, stress and further violence. In addition, the ILO Conference Committee on Gender Equality (ILO, 2009) stated that sexual harassment and violence against women “should be addressed through social dialogue, including collective bargaining where applicable at the enterprise, sectoral or national level”.

The ITUC has drawn up a model clause for collective bargaining agreements as set out in the box below.

Sample sexual harassment clause for collective bargaining agreements: ITUC

(a) Introduction. The union and the employer recognise that sexual harassment may occur in the workplace and are committed to preventing and ending it. Sexual harassment is also a disciplinary offence.

(b) Definition. Sexual harassment is unwanted, unwelcome and unasked-for behaviour of a sexual nature.It can occur either on a one-time basis or as a series of incidents, however minor. Sexual harassment is coercive and one-sided and both males and females can be victims.

(c) Action. A harassment victim may lodge a harassment complaint with a person of confidence, designated by the union in agreement with the company. The person(s) of confidence, who will be appropriately trained, shall investigate any harassment complaint, in a timely fashion and on a confidential basis.

An employee alleging harassment in the workplace has the right, after informing the person of confidence, to leave the work area without loss of pay, rights or benefits, and to refuse to return to the work area until there has been an investigation of the complaint. The redress must reflect the seriousness of the harassment case. It may be an apology, a transfer to another department or a layoff. The harasser, not the victim, must suffer the consequences of his or her actions.

The employer will include compulsory anti-sexual harassment training in its orientation for new employees in company time.

Source: ITUC (2008) Stopping Sexual harassment at work: A Trade Union Guide



As Part A of this Resource Kit showed, domestic violence is a workplace issue, particularly if women miss days from work due to fear or injury. In addressing this issue and the need for employers to respond to domestic violence, unions in Australia, in partnership with domestic violence organizations and experts, drew up a model domestic violence clause for collective bargaining. In 2010, the first clauses providing paid leave and other entitlements to victims of domestic violence were included in union negotiated enterprise agreements registered with the Australian Fair Work Commission. By June 2015 over 860 agreements had a domestic violence clause, covering over two million Australian workers. Drawn up by the global union UNI, the box below shows principles that can be included in collective bargaining agreements so as to provide support in the workplace for victims of domestic violence.

UNI Practical Workplace Support on Domestic Violence – Key Principles

[Name of company] commits to give the following support and entitlements to help people break the cycle of domestic violence:

  1. Dedicated additional paid leave for people experiencing family or domestic violence
  2. Confidentiality of people’s details will be assured and respected
  3. Workplace safety planning strategies to ensure protection of individuals will be developed and clearly understood by the parties concerned
  4. Referral of people to appropriate domestic violence support services
  5. Provision of appropriate training and paid time off work for agreed roles for nominated contact persons (including union representatives or health and safety representatives as necessary)
  6. People entitled to domestic violence leave will also be able to access flexible work arrangements where appropriate
  7. People will be protected against adverse action or discrimination on the basis of their disclosure of, experience of, or perceived experience of domestic violence

Sources: UNI Break the Circle Policies for affiliated unions: