Outlining the labour components of the revised Equator Principles

Extract from ELDIS:
Ergon / Ergon , 2006
This briefing paper outlines the labour components of the revised Equator principles – Equator II – to assist signatories, their clients and other stakeholders in understanding the new requirements. It introduces the new Equator Principles, which are based on a revised version of IFC Performance Standards – provisions on labour standards and provides an overview of the issues financial institutions must now address. It also suggests some steps they must take to operationalise the new requirements.Until now, the labour component of the IFC policies referenced by the Equator Principles has been limited to occupational health and safety and avoidance of harmful child labour and forced labour. The new IFC Performance Standard 2 (PS2), covers a range of new issues such as non-discrimination, freedom of association and non-employee workers, and also introduces a new set of processes that must be followed.Highlights of the PS2 include:

  • there must be a human resources policy covering terms and conditions and other rights at work
  • all employees must be informed of their terms and conditions and entitlements
  • collective bargaining agreements must be respected, or if not in place, terms and conditions of work must be reasonable and, at minimum, comply with local law
  • the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining must be respected
  • if rights to freedom of association are restricted in law, clients will enable alternative means for the expression of worker rights
  • projects must not use forced labour
  • projects must not employ children in economically exploitative or hazardous ways, and national laws must be complied with
  • if a significant number of jobs will be lost a retrenchment plan must be drawn up based on non-discrimination and consultation
  • there should be a confidential grievance mechanism
  • workers must be provided with a healthy working environment
  • sub-contracted workers are covered by most of these provisions

The brief argues that the new Equator Principles have the potential to improve conditions for many workers, but the procedures required for assessing risk and the issues that must be considered will be unfamiliar to most private sector banks – as will the possibility of engaging with wider stakeholders, such as trade unions.

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