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Multi-stakeholders approach to corporate governance
and labour law

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Stefano Liebman
Full Professor of Labour Law
Department of Legal Studies
Bocconi University
Via Gobbi 5, 20136 Milan, Italy

Bocconi University

Although workplace safety and health issues run comparatively low on the list of economic and societal priorities that dominate the new century, they remain a major concern for all those researchers ┐ in the fields of law, economics and theory of organization ┐ who study labour market regulations, access to employment or day-today management of corporate organization. The lifting of national barriers and, subsequently, of domestic protectionism, which, for better or for worse, regulated local markets, is one of the many consequences of market globalization. As a result, the regulatory and disciplinary powers of the respective national legal systems of the major industrialized countries fall short within the process of establishing minimal and uniform standards of protection in the interest of a growing mass of employees.

Competition, indeed, is now taking place on what is known as the "market of rules". Increasingly, companies move their operations outside the confines of their state of origin and re-locate in countries where less stringent rules bring down production costs, primarily through access to cheap labour, in that race to laxity which has been, for quite some time now, the subject of a number of papers in Law & Economics. Well aware that market globalization calls for policies that cannot remain confined to Europe, the Commission and the European Parliament have extended their scrutiny beyond the specific issue of bilateral relationships between capital and labour. The bid is now to bolster Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), intended as a means to pursuing the same objectives by a two-pronged approach.

Relevance to future of European societies
At present the notion of Corporate Social Responsibility has narrowed down to a mere issue of corporate governance. What is at risk is the crucial relation between politics and the economy ┐ or, between "the market" and ┐regulations" ┐ and what is at stake is the principle of the "primacy of politics", which has long since been recognized as the cornerstone of modern democracy. Considering the limited effects of State regulations, this principle may only be preserved by a careful balance between legal rules ┐ flowing from different sources or from accords but, in any event, subject to enforcement by the appropriate authority vested to that effect - and commitments unilaterally undertaken by enterprises on a strictly voluntary basis and typically expressed in codes of ethics of various contents and inspirations.
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