From conflict to win-win: Ten years of building social dialogue in Peru

Over ten years (2012-2022), Mondiaal FNV has provided support and facilitated collaboration between trade unions and employers in Peru to establish social dialogue. This initiative has brought about systemic change, prompting both employees and employers to transition from conflictual engagement to conducting regular consultations and reaching agreements.

* Picture - The key players: Carmela Sifuentes (CGTP), Samuel Machacuay (MondiaalFNV), and Luis Salazar (SNI).

It all started with a pair of leaders – one from the trade unions and the employers´ side - who were open to building a sustainable dialogue. Working together with Mondiaal FNV, an idea appeared of learning about the Dutch model of social dialogue, commonly referred to as ”the polder model”.

The Confederación General de los Trabajadores del Perú (CGTP) - a trade union federation in Peru, along with Mondiaal FNV, invited individuals representing both employers and workers to a study visit to the Netherlands. All participants were invited in the capacity of being Peruvians with a shared desire to contribute to the development of the country.

”I noticed right from the beginning that the employers were already adopting a conciliatory approach: they invited everyone to the airport lounge, and then everyone was keen to sit next to each other on the plane,” remembered Samuel Machacuay, the local consultant for Mondiaal FNV in Peru who has been the driving force in this process.

This was the beginning of a remarkable journey, during which the group learned about the Dutch model behind the scenes. It was at this point that Carmela Sifuentes (CGTP) and Luis Salazar, representing the employer’s organisation National Society of Industries (Sociedad Nacional de Industrias), decided to cooperate and establish a labour foundation.

Trust was the key throughout the process

“Peru doesn’t have a culture of dialogue. By nature, we do not trust each other. I knew that something had to change, but it felt like a huge challenge to transform this fundamental distrust into a sustainable relationship between both parties,” explained Samuel Machacuay.

Trust played a pivotal role in the development of enduring structural social dialogue. The initial trust between Sifuentes and Salazar gradually extended to the entire system. In pursuit of this goal, Mondiaal FNV facilitated informal discussions among employers and employees, implemented win-win negotiation practices, and provided training to trade union leaders who, in turn, trained others. The sporadic consultations evolved into regular sessions, culminating in the establishment of the "Asociación para el Trabajo" – the Peruvian variant of the Dutch Labour Foundation.

This initiative has significantly contributed to transformative changes in Peru. What was once a society where mistrust served as the initial foundation for interactions between social partners has evolved. Today, in numerous locations, authentic social dialogue prevails between employers and employees. “The social dialogue journey is still a long one, where much still needs to be improved, but I have every confidence that the young employers and employees are now well able to take over and to ensure an even better future for the employees, the companies and so our country as well!” concluded Samuel Machacuay.

Geraldine: a practical example of successful social dialogue in Peru

Geraldine is one of the people who has shaped the shift in the labour relations in her company. She works for a pharmaceutical company from which she once was sacked for founding a trade union to act against the poor working conditions in the company.

“It was a difficult time for me: I was in shock from losing my job, it was a huge challenge to make ends meet without a job. But I fought to get my job back and I managed it. I also followed all kinds of training courses, including Mondiaal FNV’s training course in social dialogue. It was a tremendously enriching experience!”

Now that social dialogue is functional in the company, workers have been able to engage in collective negotiations in which Geraldine was able to put all she had learned into practice.

“We had good results! We achieved a whole lot: for example, a five-year bonus, a contribution to training costs and a higher salary. But the most important thing of all is that we now have a permanent dialogue with the employer in the form of a monthly consultation. The atmosphere at work is now totally different.”