EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

European Framework Agreement


According to the 2009 Eurofound report European and international framework agreements: Practical experiences and strategic approaches (1.3Mb PDF), there are two subdivisions of transnational company agreements (TCAs); the International Framework Agreement (IFA) and the European Framework Agreement (EFA).


IFAs are signed by Global Union Federations (GUFs) and have a global scope of application. EFAs have a regional (European) scope of application and are signed by European industry federations (EIFs), European Works Councils (EWCs) and/or national unions and central management.

While IFAs are a global instrument with the main purpose of ensuring that international labour standards are maintained in all of the target company’s locations, EFAs are limited to the European context and cover a broader range of topics. In general, EFAs also contain more concrete and focused arrangements.

According to the 2009 Eurofound report, EFAs are also more diverse than IFAs, both in terms of content and procedure. EWCs play an important role in the negotiation and signature of these agreements, and have signed a large majority of them. They also have an important role in the implementation and monitoring processes of a growing number of EFAs.

EFAs cover a variety of issues, including restructuring, social dialogue, health and safety, human resources management and data protection. Fundamental social rights play only a minor role in EFAs, whereas they are the predominant issue in IFAs.

The majority of the EFAs – 52 out of 73 according to Eurofound research – were signed by EWCs. Of those, 42 were signed by EWCs alone; 10 were co-signed in cooperation with European Industry Federations, and of these three were also co-signed by national unions. Five EFAs were signed by an EIF alone, that organisation being the European Metalworkers’ Federation (EMF). This very recent development reflects a more critical attitude of EIFs towards EWC agreements. The EMF, supported by the European Trade Union Federation (ETUC) and other EIFs, requires that the negotiation and signature of transnational agreements is limited to union organisations.

The Commission has set up a database of transnational company agreements – both IFAs and EFAs – containing details of every company and agreement.

Overall, the trend of negotiating IFAs and EFAs accelerated after 2000. The European Commission (EC), in its September 2012 consultation (84Kb PDF) on the future of transnational company agreements, notes that by mid-2007 there were 150 known texts, a figure which had risen to 215 by mid-2011. By early 2012 this had risen again to 224. The Commission noted that these types of agreements, including EFAs, were playing an increasingly important role in the European-level social dialogue. It asked for views from stakeholders and experts on the future development and possible regulation of these agreements.

See also: European Works Councils; European industry federations; European social dialogue; European collective agreements; Transnational company agreements.


Please note: the European industrial relations dictionary is updated annually. If errors are brought to our attention, we will try to correct them.


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