Delegates at the just-concluded International Labour Conference (ILC), which took place in Geneva, Switzerland, have agreed on a framework for action to promote and strengthen social dialogue.
The framework was adopted by the Committee for the Recurrent Discussion on Social Dialogue – one of the four committees that met during the ILC – which was made up of government, worker and employer delegates.
The committee stressed that social dialogue is at the heart of democracy – and is essential for social and economic development. It called on those ILO constituents to strengthen institutions and processes of social dialogue and asked the Office to provide support, actively promote social dialogue and enhance policy coherence with other international organisations.
It (committee) reaffirmed the importance of social dialogue in achieving social and economic progress, stressing that it embodies the basic democratic principle that people affected by decisions should have a voice in the decision-making process.
The committee’s Chairperson, Pierre-Paul Maeter, outlined the important role governments can play along with its social partners, particularly in times of crisis.
“Strong labour ministries can work with the social partners to address issues that have important impacts on workers and employers. Social dialogue’s effectiveness and the soundness of industrial relations depend on the capacity of the government to act as policy-maker, administrator and as participant in tripartite discussions.”
The global economic and financial crises resulted in some countries engaging with social partners to address critical issues, the committee said. However, in other countries, policy reforms have weakened collective bargaining structures, minimum wages and pensions and employment protection laws, without improving job creation.
This, alongside the impact of globalisation, has made social dialogue and the strengthening of collective bargaining ever more critical, said workers’ spokesperson, Sarah Fox.
“The increasing complexity of global supply chains, have created new challenges for workers since many decisions affecting them are now taken beyond national boundaries. Tripartism at national level is no longer sufficient. We need to build and strengthen new spaces for cross-border social dialogue so we can protect workers’ rights and interests.”
A number of conventions related to social dialogue will be promoted in a new campaign, as part of the plan of action. This includes the Tripartite Consultation Convention, 1976 (No.144) and the Collective Bargaining Convention 1981 (No. 154).
Other measures include helping labour administrations improve the governance and efficiency of labour law enforcement and labour inspections; expanding the ILO’s assistance to labour dispute prevention and resolution systems and mechanisms; and convening a meeting of experts on cross-border social dialogue.
“Social dialogue benefits all parties at all levels,” said employers’ spokesperson, Jørgen Rønnest. “Workplace cooperation between employers and workers, for instance, facilitates information sharing, consultation and even joint decision-making. It contributes to stable industrial and employment relations and productive workplaces.”
The ILO has pledged to help constituents to promote, facilitate and engage in social dialogue and collective bargaining. It said it will also be more proactive in engaging with international organisations and institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and World Trade Organisation (WTO) to promote the Decent Work Agenda and ILO standards and principles.