U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre

This Anti-Corruption Helpdesk brief was produced in response to a query from a U4 Partner Agency. The U4 Helpdesk is operated by Transparency International in collaboration with the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre based at the Chr. Michelsen Institute.


Please provide a summary of the key corruption risks of labour unions and employers’ associations and potential mitigation measures. Please discuss what is the potential for social dialogues as an anti-corruption initiative.


Labour unions and employers’ associations can encounter particular corruption risks. Labour unions reportedly suffer mostly from internal corruption, where leaders are bribed by management and do not represent the workers’ interests or where they embezzle union funds. Corruption on the part of employers’ associations and business associations has been less documented, but scandals like the one uncovered by the Lava Jato investigations in Brazil show that companies, particularly in the same sector, can collude to coordinate corrupt activities.

Labour unions and employers’ associations can also be vehicles for reform and there are a number of activities that they can undertake to curb corruption, not only inside their organisations but in general too. Social dialogues can provide the context and forum to discuss multi-stakeholder efforts to curb corruption and potentially drive forward anti-corruption reforms.

Main points

  • Labour unions can face generic corruption risks, like bribery and embezzlement, as well as risks emerging from the politicisation of unions. Additionally, racketeering has been widely covered in the media.
  • Business associations can act as coordination fora where companies agree upon collusive arrangements including corruption.
  • Social dialogue is any type of information exchange between employees and management – and in some cases the government as well – to achieve reform.


  1. Background information on social dialogues
    1. Social dialogues in international development
  2. Corruption risks and mitigation measures

    1. International aid
    2. Unions and workers’ associations
    3. Business associations
  3. The anti-corruption potential of workers’ and employers’ associations

    1. Workers’ associations
    2. Employers’ associations
  4. Social dialogues and collective action
  5. Challenges to social dialogues bargaining in low and middle-income countries
  6. References


Gabriela Camacho ([email protected])


Saul Mullard (U4)

Matthew Jenkins (TI)




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