‘Social dialogue for decent work’ - The new CSC/ACV trade union cooperation programme

The start of 2012 saw Belgium’s Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (CSC/ACV) embark on a new three-year trade union cooperation programme. The new programme, entitled Social dialogue for decent work, aims to foster partnerships with organisations in nine countries across three continents: KSBSI in Indonesia, the CLC in Cambodia, the NDWM in India, CSC-Congo, CONSAWU in South Africa, the CDT in Morocco, the CGT in Colombia, the UGT in Brazil and the CTH in Haiti. The programme fits within a context of trade union cooperation supported by the Belgian government’s Directorate-General for Development (DGD).

What unites all the partnerships in this programme are the issues dealt with and the methods employed. In terms of issues, the programme fits into the conceptual framework of the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda but focuses on two of its four dimensions: social dialogue and trade union rights. The option of following the ILO’s conceptual framework was chosen so as to be able to exploit numerous potential synergies with the reference framework of the Decent Work Agenda, such as indicators and strategies or plans for decent work at sub-state, national or international level. At the same time, this new CSC/ACV programme puts strengthening trade union confederations firmly at the heart of the approach. Confederations need to have as much independence, representativeness, internal democracy and financial sustainability as possible in order to influence social dialogue and ensure compliance with trade union rights in their home countries. As for specific target groups, the programme mainly focuses on the poor and most vulnerable workers, as defined by each programme partner organisation. These are groups of workers active in both the formal and informal economy, often with a focus on women, young people, sub-contractors in multinational companies, migrants and/or workers in disadvantaged areas. There have also been a number of significant changes to the methodology compared with previous programmes. The changes affect the preparation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the programme. The emphasis in the preparation stage was mainly on methodology and participatory aspects, helping to identify trade union initiatives within organisations that have maximum trade union potential. Planning sessions were then organised with each partner organisation, at which participation techniques such as Metaplan were applied. In late 2011, a preparation seminar involving all partners was organised in Brussels, resulting in the development of specific monitoring instruments for the programme’s transversal aspects, i.e. gender, the environment and training. To ensure that the programme’s structure remains as simple as possible, a decision was made to maintain a structure of only three intermediate results for each partnership, geared towards (1) development capacity building, (2) organisational capacity building and (3) institutional capacity building. Whereas (1) primarily aims to develop quality services provided by the confederations for their members (e.g. legal services, local services, topic-based training sessions for activists), (2) focuses on the dynamics of internal democracy, social cohesion and representativeness (i.e. internal communication, recruitment and membership campaigns, database management) and (3) predominantly deals with the dynamics of working with other social actors, identifying bi- or tripartite working practices, or other configurations, with government or non-government actors (e.g. bi- or tripartite forums and external campaigns). The CSC/ACV’s role is to provide partners with intensive and proactive support, and coaching (e.g. coaching trade union officers from partner organisations on technical issues and on the content of the programme’s framework). The last section of the CSC/ACV’s programme focuses on raising awareness of the challenges posed by globalisation in the labour market in order to create as many links as possible between the North and South, including via the website www.travailmondial.be, where you can find more information on this topic.

Article provided by Thomas Miessen, ACV - CSC