The Global Collective Bargaining Agreements Database

By Ernest Tingum Ngeh, global manager Collective Agreement database, university of Dar es Salaam

For more than three years now, WageIndicator in collaboration with the University of Dar es Salaam has been creating a global database of Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs), to inform workers of the rights they seem to ignore. The database also gives them the possibility to know what is happening in other sectors in their country as well as in other countries. This can be done by comparing CBA-clauses under various topics, such as: maternity leave, working hours, social security, rest days annual leave, Minimum Wages, etc. We believe that this can raise the bargaining power of employees when discussing new terms with the employer or when bargaining improvements of the existing terms as well as create new avenues for improvement of their working conditions.

Countries, Languages and Users

The CBA-database currently comprises 24 countries, i.e. Benin, Burundi, Brazil, Cambodia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Peru, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda. So far, we have more than 400 CBAs in the system as compared to 136 CBAs, two years back, in 2013.

The languages used in the database thus far are English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Swahili (Tanzania), Bahasa (Indonesia), Khmer (Cambodia), Malagasy (Madagascar).

This database is designed for employees, employers, trade unions, employers’ associations, academicians, policy makers, etc. It is free and would always be free for all to check their fundamental rights.

Uploading and Annotation of CBAs

For CBAs to be brought online in the database these complex documents have to  go through a number of steps. First they are collected, next transformed into html- format using Amaya software, whereas for uploading the COBRA-program is used, and after completion the uploaded versions can be annotated.

In the collection of CBAs WageIndicator collaborates with trade unions and/or employers’ associations in various countries. CBAs are sent in various formats: MS- word, PDF or scanned documents. PDF and scanned documents are first transformed into MS-word format.

The annotation section in COBRA has a total of 11 topics containing over 80 questions to be answered as well as their corresponding clauses to be selected. These questions fall under the following topics: General CBA-data, Job titles, Social Security & Pensions, Training, Employment Contracts, Sickness & Disability, Health & Medical Assistance, Work and Family Arrangements, Wages, Working hours and Coverage.  See figure below:


When answering questions under each topic, clauses are selected in the text for the corresponding question. An example is given in the figure below for questions under the topic Working Hours.


The database can be used for many purposes and by any person interested. It can be used by trades unions or employers if they want for example to compare specific clauses across countries, sectors or industries for strategic negotiations. To compare clauses COBRA offers a tool which takes just few steps; 1) select an issue for comparison, 2) select countries and/or sectors, 3) search.

The database can also be used to compare old and new CBAs. This option is given because usually a CBA has a period during which it is effective until it is amended by mutual agreement between the employer and union. With the help of the database one can now easily track changes to see the amendments made starting from the previous agreements.

Academic Use: a Pioneering Study

The database can also be used by academicians. An example is a recent paper in the International Journal of Manpower, using the database: Comparing Collective Bargaining Agreements for Developing Countries, issue 36(1), pp.86 – 102, J. Besamusca and K. Tijdens (2015). The following is an abstract of that paper:

‘The purpose of this paper is to fill several knowledge gaps regarding the contents of collective agreements, using a new online database. The authors analyse 249 collective agreements from 11 countries – Benin, Brazil, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Peru, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda. The authors research to what extent wage and other remuneration-related clauses, working hours, paid leave arrangements and work-family arrangements are included in collective agreements and whether bargaining topics cluster within agreements. The authors use the web-based WageIndicator Collective Bargaining Agreement Database with uniformly coded agreements, that are both collected and made accessible online. The authors present a quantitative multi-country comparison of the inclusion and contents of the clauses in the agreements.

The authors find that 98 per cent of the collective agreements include clauses on wages, but that only few agreements specify wage levels. Up to 71 per cent have clauses on social security, 89 per cent on working hours and 84 per cent on work-family arrangements. The authors also find that collective agreements including one of these four clauses, are also more likely to include the other three and conclude that no trade off exists between their inclusion on the bargaining agenda.

Being one of the first multi-country analyses of collective agreements, the analysis is primarily explorative, aiming to establish a factual baseline with regard to the contents of collective agreements. This study is unique because of its focus on the content of collective bargaining agreements. The authors are the first to be able to show empirically which clauses are included in existing collective agreements in developing countries.’

Global Impact of the CBA-database

Comparing CBAs with national labor laws is usually done to improve on the working conditions and ascertain the bargaining power of national trade unions. Normally, the CBAs are not supposed to undercut the levels set by national labor laws. More and more CBAs will be adopted and cover more workers, thereby improving their working conditions.

Our future target is to enlighten all workers of their labor rights globally. This entails enlarging the CBA- database to all the WageIndicator countries and therefore tracking new CBAs renegotiated after expiration, marketing the database for accessibility by all and funding to enlarge and continue its operation.