In mid-September, Veolia announced a social protection program “unprecedented in its scale” to cover its 213,000 employees worldwide, more than 80% of field, non-managerial employees: parental leave, health coverage, death benefit, support for helping employees, solidarity leave, without condition of seniority, whatever or the country of establishment. “A global company can make a difference in social dialogue with its employees. It’s important to show that you care about them. They are ambassadors for Veolia and its businesses. It’s a bit like exporting the French social model”, declares Estelle Brachlianoff, the general director of the group specializing in waste, water and energy management. Would multinationals start to standardize their social policies globally?
Read also: Article reserved for our Veolia subscribers: Estelle Brachlianoff, the water general
Veolia’s initiative is in fact part of a slow process started in 1988, which concerns a small volume of large groups but very many employees. It was Danone who launched the movement with the declaration of a “common opinion” then signed with the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers (IUF). In this simple one-page document, the group then committed to respecting fundamental social rights (non-use of child labor, forced labor, non-discrimination, etc.) at a global level. Employers were not yet at the point of taking charge of paternity leave.
Since the“common opinion” by Danone, which today concerns 96,000 employees, a dozen large groups (Total, EDF, Michelin, Solvay, SG, Orange, etc.) have signed transnational agreements with union federations or put in place systems which cover at least the standards of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and aim to expand social protection for all their employees around the world. Total has notably created disability compensation and a death benefit; Solvay sixteen weeks of parental leave; Michelin one “universal social cohesion base” including health coverage, death insurance, maternity and paternity leave.
Disparities between countries
Have multinationals suddenly become philanthropists? Not really. But if economic globalization continued to advance, on the other hand, that of social protection lagged behind. However, themonographic analysis of around ten French companies signatories to international framework agreementscarried out by researchers from Paris-Dauphine University and the CNRS, reveals that most of the leaders concerned have “the concern to articulate the economic, social and possibly the environment in a harmonious and efficient manner” et “to make commitments made by the group effective in all subsidiaries, and even throughout the value chain”. What to fill their duty of vigilance on the health of their employees, including in subsidiaries, and take care of their extra-financial rating.
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