The Application of International Labour Standards and Private Regulation in Subsidiaries of Multinational Enterprises in Ghana: Ramifications for Organised Labour and Workers

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Nathaniel Tetteh


The contemporary Ghanaian state post- Nkrumah have successfully worked on capturing foreign direct investment (FDI) from Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) by implementing neoliberal policies in order to achieve development. Those policies have been the constraining of actors such as unions and bodies of the state in the creation, monitoring and enforcement of labour standards. For example, the contemporary framework of employment regulation is one of a “reductionist” labour law; weak in its coverage, its ability to effectively sanction unscrupulous employers and its effectiveness in avoiding the fracturing of organised labour. MNEs the principal protagonists and beneficiaries in this age of liberal marketization, for the most part, have developed hegemonic practices of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to address employment standards in weakened institutional contexts: in the wake of movements that have targeted corporate misconduct. Although, measures of CSR and private regulatory initiatives have allegedly been designed as the “corporate counter efforts to silence, evade, oppose and co-opt” (Shamir, 2004 p.670) those political pressures. To address the growing need for research into MNEs operating in Africa in terms of their industrial relations practices, this study seeks to provide an employment relations dimension to understanding CSR in the growing research area of international private regulations and their employment implications in developing countries. This study sets out to examine the application of international labour standards and private regulation adopted by MNEs in the Ghanaian context, and the possible ramifications for organised labour and workers. The study utilises an employment relations framework which examines the micro-level interactions at the workplace and also observes the macro-level actors set up to govern those relations, to highlight weaknesses in the institutional capabilities of state actors. In its examination of four MNEs, initial findings of practices such as the use of anti- union strategies and whipsawing in this developing country context, remained consistent with those highlighted in literatures of International Human Resource Management. At the workplace the rhetoric of CSR which is subsumed in private regulatory initiatives such as Codes of Conduct (CoCs) and Transnational Company Agreements (TCAs) had varied interpretations with regards to their influence on labour processes, albeit, highlighting a positive effect of a TCA at an MNE; with the signing of a collective agreement. This is because on the whole MNEs seem to be distorting and not necessarily enhancing the question of labour standards even when they engage with CSR. The hegemonic practice of CSR thus, forms part of an elite agenda to put a “human face” to the expropriation of profits serving up short term palliatives at best and concealing concrete managerial practices that undermine labour standards. The thesis argues that issues of labour standards and CSR must be understood in the national, sectoral and workplace context; thus, taking up an employment relations approach of examining the macro, meso and micro level allowed for an informed piece of work. This is because the macro and meso level institutional context of a weakened state regulatory framework as well as a fractured labour movement, provided scope for the actor agency (MNEs) to create relatively unfavourable organisational outcomes for workers.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2020