Last Updated on Monday, 1 May 2023, 9:06 by Denis Chabrol
By Samuel J. Goolsarran
Social dialogue is integral to the labour industrial relations systems. Tripartite labour advisory bodies have been common features in the system of industrial relations in the Caribbean both through legislation and practice since colonial times. They are established to deal largely with national labour policy including the regulation of wages, labour legislation and labour dispute resolution. It provides the opportunity for the social partners – the National Trade Union Organization, Employers Organizations, and Government and its agencies to discuss macro-economic and social issues to develop an agreed social partnership agreement in the national interest. This should be promoted and practiced as a matter of priority to forge national, sectoral and enterprise agreements beyond the confines of the traditional collective bargaining.
The International Labour Organization and Social Dialogue
Effective social dialogues are premised on strong tripartite organizations to facilitate sustained higher-level dialogue. This was re-affirmed by Juan Somavia, a former Director General of the Internal Labour Organization in the following statement:
“There is no influential social dialogue without strong employers’ and workers’ organizations; there is no effective tripartism without strong labour ministries and strong labour administrations”.
The ILO since its establishment in 1919, set the pace, standard, and example in tripartite deliberations in social dialogue resulting in the development and adoption of the international labour code of Conventions and Recommendations, and their ratification, implementation, and monitoring through the ILO supervisory machinery. Such tripartite deliberations also produce international declarations and resolutions. One such resolution was considered by the 90th. Session of the International Labour Conference in 2002, which adopted a resolution concerning tripartism and social dialogue. The resolution affirms:
“• that social dialogue and tripartism have proved to be a valuable and democratic means to address social concerns, build consensus, help elaborate international labour standards and examine a wide range of labour issues on which the social partners play a direct, legitimate and irreplaceable role;
- the importance of strengthening the collaboration between the social partners and governments to achieve appropriate solutions at the national, regional and international levels; and
- that social dialogue and tripartism are modern and dynamic processes that have unique capacity and great potential to contribute to progress in many difficult and challenging situations and issues, including those related to globalization, regional integration and transition’.
This resolution of the International Labour Conference invites governments to ensure that the necessary preconditions exist for social dialogue and calls on governments and workers’ and employers’ organizations to promote and enhance tripartism and social dialogue in all sectors. The ILO defines social dialogue:
“… to include all types of negotiation, consultation or simply the exchange of information between, or among representatives of governments, employers and workers, on issues of common interest relating to economic and social policy”.
The foregoing resolution recalls ILO Convention No. 144 – Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards), 1976. This Convention requires effective and meaningful consultation among the representatives of government, employers and trade unions on international labour standards and related matters. Specifically, under this Convention, tripartite consultations are required on:
- items on the agenda for the annual International Labour Conference;
- consideration and submission of ILO Conventions and Recommendations to the competent authority with appropriate recommendations;
- re-examination of Conventions, and Recommendations for appropriate action;
- reports on ratified Conventions, and other reports to the ILO; and
- proposals, if any, for denunciation of ratified Conventions.
Tripartite consultation is integral for an effective system of Labour Administration and Social Policy as required by ILO Convention No. 150 on Labour Administration, 1978. This Convention provides for an effective system of labour administration whose functions and responsibilities are properly coordinated with the participation of workers and employers and their organizations. The functions and responsibilities include national labour policy and labour standards; industrial and labour relations including dispute resolution through conciliation/mediation; labour and OSH inspections; employment, manpower planning, and employment services; research, labour statistics, and HRD; and regional and international affairs.
Potential and Initiatives in Social Dialogue
The enormous potential of social dialogue to improve the social system and contribute to the creation of an inclusive national community must be promoted and practiced as matter of high priority. The realization is that national social dialogue, can, in good faith, promote national, social, and political stability, and a more just society. The involvement of government and the social partners and civil society in national decision-making can promote greater consensus and contribute to national development, stronger democracy, and good governance, which is expressed in representative inclusive participation, transparency in national policy implementation in a credible manner, and strict accountability to the national community.