Dialogue's the Glue to Hold Society Together

Dec 19 , 2021
By Halima Abate (MD)

It is imperative to strengthen the capacity of social partners, labour administrations and social partners to institutionalise social dialogue at the national, regional, and sectoral levels, writes Halima Abate (MD) (halimabate@gmail.com), a public health professional with over a decade of experience.

Enhancing institutional innovation to create localised participation fosters society and can amplify the broader social goals. Pronouncing a need for empirical attention to how social dialogue development stemming from participatory institutions that alter the landscape of civil society is crucial.

Social dialogue refers to communication, negotiation, consultation or exchange of information between representatives of employers, workers and governments on specific issues. It serves as a vehicle for improving system effectiveness and equity and enhancing the quality of service provision and delivery and can be performed at different levels. These are fundamental elements in contemporary democracies and key ingredients. These, in turn, will formulate social capital through the aggregation of numerous decisions by individual actors to form and maintain relationships.

The International Labor Organisation (ILO) articulates the basic conditions that must be met for social capital to grow. It includes respecting the fundamental principles of freedom of association and collective bargaining; supporting the development of independent, strong and representative employers’ and workers’ organisations; and promoting well-functioning and inclusive social dialogue institutions to bring effective and fair outcomes.

As demand for causes has transformed over the decades, there should be inclusive social dialogue platforms to develop policy proposals for government action on social protection. Drawing up evidence-based policy recommendations to support 'build back better' approaches to enable economic and social recovery, and importantly, sector-wide and system-level improvements is critical. Given the downward pressure on wages and the increase in employment terminations as a result of the political instability, the number of individual and collective disputes is expected to increase. Hence, the government should ensure negotiations on the measures to mitigate the immediate negative socio-economic impact through collective bargaining and bilateral agreements at various levels and access to social benefits and government support schemes. It can ensure that measures to protect the livelihoods of workers and enterprises are implemented effectively and are targeted at those most in need.

Furthermore, deepening collaboration with workers’ organisations and demonstrating the value of social partnership by collectively providing quick and innovative solutions in practice is necessary. Mobilisation of the private sector to support national efforts by, for example, establishing funds to strengthen national health capacities and providing financial support for groups in vulnerable situations, will come in handy.

The effort should also include the development of national policies to protect lives, health, jobs and incomes. This is by providing mortgage payments relief to devise robust and tailored policy solutions to the immediate challenges brought about by the crisis. It may include promoting economic resilience and the sustainability of enterprises, limiting redundancies and providing income support to workers and their families.

While governments have the ultimate responsibility for designing and implementing public policies, the social partners can make a decisive contribution to shaping them, complementing and supporting tripartite and direct government action. Social dialogue can help devise longer-term policies and strategies for the post-crisis period to boost productivity and economic growth, promote transition to formality, and ensure social cohesion, resilience, and stability.

Arranging guidelines and codes of good practice to facilitate people’s return to work can reactivate the economy where collective bargaining will play a crucial role during the economic downturn in designing employment retention measures and maintaining business performance. Sectors should have a key part to play in the design and implementation of public support measures most directly affected by the conflict zones such as the health sector, hotels, tourism, retail and trade, and manufacturing and culture.

It will be imperative to strengthen the capacity of social partners, labour administrations and social partners to enable them to contribute to the design and implementation of recovery policies through institutionalising social dialogue at the national, regional, and sectoral levels.

PUBLISHED ON Dec 19,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1129]

Halima Abate (MD) is a public health professional with over a decade of experience. She can be reached at halimabate@gmail.com.

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