Tripartism and social dialogue for better industrial relations
Tripartism and social dialogue has become an integral component of good governance in many countries and it has been playing fundamental role for strengthening a democracy, social justice and sustainable economic development. The association of all three parties in the design and implementation of economic and social policies facilitates consensus building and balances socio-economic development, which leads to social cohesion.
Social dialogue may take many forms e.g. information sharing, consultation and negotiation. It also provides the best possible scenario for the effective and sustainable implementation of the policies concerned, and minimizes the risk of industrial and social conflict. Economic prosperity and social progress cannot be achieved by governments, employers or workers acting in isolation. Social dialogue provides social partners and other stakeholders with the opportunity to participate in decision making. The aim of this participation and cooperation is to facilitate agreements on a socially acceptable combination of socio-economic progress, wealth creation, social security, stability and equity.
It is an effective tool for meeting collective challenges by creating a structure and environment suitable for more efficient problem solving among the stakeholders in society. Social dialogue, as defined by ILO, includes all types of negotiations and consultations or simply exchange of information between or among representatives of government, employers and workers on issues of common interest relating to economic and social policies. Social dialogue requires strong independent workers' and employers' organization with technical capacity and access to relevant information. It also requires political will and commitment and a respect for the fundamental rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining.
The primary goal of social dialogue is to promote consensus building and democratic involvement among main stakeholders in the workplace. Successful social dialogue structures and processes have the potential to resolve important economic and social issues, encourage good governance, advance social and industrial peace and stability, and boost economic progress. It is essential to strengthen the capacity of the key players in tripartism and social dialogue, namely, the workers and employers' organizations as well as that of the labour ministry so that it can play a catalytic role at the national level.
Evidence shows that a high-level consultations that have helped create the ideal climate for tripartism and bi-partism, the link between tripartism and bi-partism and the outstanding results achieved in several countries in resolving issues related to job creation, restructuring, promotion of wage flexibility, strengthening bi-partism and addressing the special issues related to informal sector and export processing zones.
Past experience of tripartism and social dialogue in different countries presents a mixed picture. Globalization has created the need for wider and deeper social dialogue involving different interests, especially the young, women and minority groups. Poverty reduction has become a major challenge for social partners. Furthermore, there is a growing recognition of the role of tripartism and social dialogue in promoting good governance and better industrial relations (IR). Tripartism and Social dialogue are flexible tools in the hands of the government and the social partners giving a competitive advantage to country's commitment to sustainable socio-economic development.
It is true that tripartism and social dialogue are integral components for establishing harmonious industrial relations (IR). In Bangladesh, there are eight tripartite forums working in the field of IR such as (i) Tripartite Consultative Council; (ii) National Wages and Productivity Commission; (iii) Labour Court;(iv) Minimum Wage Board;(v) Bangladesh Labour Welfare Foundation; (vi) National Child Labour Welfare (vii) National Industrial Safety and Health Council; (viii) National Council for Skill Development and Training. Most of the social dialogues and tripartite forums are not functioning properly. As a result, volatile situation are travailing in the scenario of industrial relations of Bangladesh.
For strengthening the tripartism and social dialogue in Bangladesh, it is quite important that the tripartite bodies should work on the basis of regular work programmes including holding its meetings and events as provided in their respective mandates and terms of references. The following measures should be considered for strengthening tripartism and social dialogue for better Industrial Relations in Bangladesh:
1. Strong and independent workers' and employee's organizations with the technical knowledge and capacity and access to relevant information to participate effectively in tripartite meeting and social dialogue.
2. A strong government commitment is needed to implement tripartite agreements and to ensure the co-operation among the stakeholders in a true spirit of tripartism.
3. Appropriate and established institutional and legal frameworks should be formed to allow linkages, negotiations, and settlement among the three actors of industrial relations such as government, employers and employees representative.
4. Democratically elected trade union representatives should be nominated in tripartite bodies or institutions in proper way. The initiative to do so should come from the trade union leaders themselves.
5. An expert group can be formed for each of the national bodies so that the trade union leaders can have a pre-discussion and come together with a common position on the raised issues in tripartite bodies.
6. A national tripartite coordination committee with representation from all stakeholders can be formed. Under this national committee, some sector-based committee can be formed and sub-committee. They should be high powered committees with authority to take decision.
7. For the traded unions, a regular follow-up mechanism for tripartite consultation and social dialogue needs to be institutionalized.
Strengthening tripartism and social dialogue helps to minimize conflict situations and establish sound industrial relations system, bypassing the existing dysfunctional statutory dispute settlement mechanisms. So it can be inferred very confidently that the prospect of tripartism and social dialogue in the field of industrial relations is very bright in Bangladesh if it is effectively utilized.
Dr Md Abu Taher Member, University Grants Commission of Bangladesh & Director, Board of Directors, Jibon Bima Corporation, Dhaka