TUDCN at the EU Partnership Forum 2017

TUDCN took part in the EU Partnership Forum, in Brussels on 6-7 July 2017, an interactive platform generating constructive dialogue and gathering feedback on best practices to help the EU institutions further develop its Partnerships and the joint responses they bring to complex and evolving challenges in the field. TUDCN co-organised with the International Organisation of Employers a panel discussion on social dialogue as a driver for sustainable and inclusive development.

Social Dialogue is one of the four pillars of the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda and can play an important role in linking employment with trade and economic policies. It interacts with all parts of the economic and social development of a country. In recent years social dialogue has not realized its full potential. It has been under particular strain in those countries most affected by the recent economic crisis. In March 2015, 30 years after the launch of the European Social Dialogue, the European Commission, together with the social partners and the other EU institutions launched a "New Start for Social Dialogue".

The new European Consensus on Development highlights the EU commitment to work with employers and workers’ organisations to promote responsible, sustainable and effective approaches, including through social dialogue. Besides, preconditions opening the space for dialogue with the social partners and promote collective bargaining and consultation processes are necessary for an effective social dialogue. Proper modalities and mechanisms are essential for social dialogue to succeed.

Based on good practices, this session discussed how social dialogue can be a driver of decent job creation, and addressed how the EU and its Member States can concretely support social dialogue in partner countries. From the TUDCN side, the session built up on our thematic seminar on the role of social dialogue in development, organised with the ILO in November 2016.

The main takeaways of the panel discussion were that 1) trade unions and employers organisations should be supported to strengthen their capacities to engage in social dialogue, 2) informal economy workers are being taken into account and represented by social partners in social dialogue, and 3) social dialogue between trade unions and employers is crucial to achieve sustainable and inclusive development.

Claire Courteille, Director of the ILO Benelux and EU Office moderated the session and offered the ILO definition of social dialogue and its preconditions to flourish, such as an enabling environment allowing for freedom of association, freedom of assembly, collective bargaining, functioning institutions and inclusive governance.

Prince Asafu-Adyaje from the Trades Union Congress of Ghana explained the modalities of social dialogue in Ghana and gave examples of informal workers taking part in social dialogue in his country. He advocated for social dialogue as a means of implementation for the SDGs, as it ensures inclusive development which is conducive to decent work (SDG 8). He stressed that donors’ support to social dialogue is appreciated, particularly to increase the capacities of social partners to become actors of governance.

Frederick Muia from the International Organisation for Employers (IOE) presented the Blueprint for jobs in Africa and its 10 recommendations to boost decent work and employability in Africa. He stressed the need to offer decent job opportunities to African youth, and pointed out that a bigger formal economy is in the interest of workers and employers. He agreed with trade unions on the importance of social partners to have capacities to engage in social dialogue.

Thérèse Boutsen from the Belgian Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Dialogue stressed that Belgium is committed to strengthening of labour protection laws and social dialogue, through the support of to social partners to reinforce capacities, and make social dialogue concrete and tangible. Belgium is a small country with limited resources that has projected social dialogue as priority, as main aspect of democratic governance. Belgium also takes part in multilateral initiatives related to global supply chains. Belgium is vice-president of the Friends of Decent Work, which introduced decent work (SDG8) into the Agenda 2030, and intends continue working at the global stage to promote decent work and social dialogue.

Françoise Millecam from the European Commission DG DEVCO outlined the many ways to support social dialogue, with a particular emphasis on capacity building. She expressed that DG DEVCO is happy to support both ITUC and IOE. Millecam described the different EU financing instruments that can promote social dialogue, such as EIDHR, CSO-LA programme, and call for proposals of EU delegations. The SOCIEUX+ programme provides technical assistance facility to support employment and social protection at large. generally, the European Commission subscribed to the Decent Work Agenda and works on business and human rights and CSR, where social partners can play a substantial role.

Linda Kromjong, Secretary General, IOE said social dialogue is hard work, but it is important. It is linked to business and human rights, and the IOE is a strong supporter of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Social dialogue needs to be inclusive, even if social partners do not always agree. She stressed the need to focus on youth employment, and to work in partnership.

Paola Simonetti, Coordinator Development Policy, ITUC and TUDCN Coordinator, concluded that all social dialogue actors have their responsibility. Trade unions value that decent work is core to SDGs implementation, and support the Swedish Global Deal for Decent Work and Inclusive Growth, and its focus on freedom of association, collective bargaining and social dialogue as means of implementation of the SDGs. Simonetti added that the EU and the EC should reflect more carefully on how social dialogue can be better embedded into an operational instrument, how social dialogue and its players can be more structurally supported through EU’s support to development cooperation.

ITUC Trade Policy Advisor Georgios Altintzis spoke at the panel discussion "CSOs involvement in EU trade agreements: implementation of Trade and Sustainable Development Chapters (TSD) and of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP)". He said that EU trade policy should be a vehicle for the promotion of labour rights, and the EC should constantly monitor the respect of labour standards in its dealings with trade partners. Domestic Advisory Groups should be truly representative, and include workers and trade unions at both sides, he added.