Social Dialogue, as defined by International Labour Organisation (ILO), include negotiations, communication, consultations, or simply exchange of information between or among representatives of governments, employers and workers, on issues of common interest relating to economic and social policy in a workplace. Governments, employers or workers acting alone cannot achieve economic and social progress and stability, and require continuous and constructive interaction and engagement to arrive at social consensus and/or compromise. Social Dialogue provides participating stakeholders with opportunities to jointly decide on their mutual and individual responsibilities and futures. Social Dialogue as a mechanism and an effective tool for solving collective challenges by creating structures and environment suitable for efficient problem -solving, facilitates conditions for establishing better working and living conditions and social justice for workers in particular, and enhanced harmony and productivity at workplace for employers and managers.
Social Dialogue is an integral component of ILO’s Decent Work agenda and extremely relevant in the context of Asia as a major part of global production networks (GPN) and value and supply chains. ILO’s fundamental principles and rights at work, and particularly the right to associate and bargain collectively, are pre-conditions for social dialogue. However, effective operation of social dialogue is required for these principles to be fully realized. The benefits of social dialogue within enterprises have been recorded in the form of improved worker-management communication, initiation and strengthening of forums for communication, dialogue, deliberation and solution oriented decisions and improved industrial relations. Worldwide Enhancement of Social Quality (WE Project), a partnership project between Tchibo, a German retailer, and GIZ, could be seen as a good example of social dialogue at workplace. WE Project improved production rates by 30% and reduced turnover rates from 10% to 6% during the project period.
However, wider implementation of social dialogue methods at workplace in GPNs and value and supply chains in India and wider Asia is far from desired, due to several complex challenges around policies, context and practices. Senior management in organizations in GPNs do not view employee engagement as a strategic function, since there is no apparent direct link between benefits of social dialogue within an organization and it’s bottom-line. Limited awareness amongst workers and managers about labour standards and worker’s rights, and absence of democratically elected worker unions results in limited two-way communication between workers and senior management.
Centre for Responsible Business (CRB) in partnership with several garment and apparel and footwear brands is engaged in initiatives on social dialogue in their value and supply chains to enable creation of systems and processes in factories to practice and promote social dialogue and bridge gaps between the management and workers. To share experiences, perspectives and learning on social dialogue as an effective mechanism and chart future steps, CRB in collaboration with ISEAL Alliance, UK, is organizing a webinar on the topic “Social Dialogue at Workplace in Global Value and Supply Chains: Experiences from India, Wider Asia and Way Forward”. The webinar will bring together a panel comprising of international organisation and experts, who will share their experiences and discuss the role of various stakeholders, complexities and challenges in formulating, initiating and deepening social dialogue practices and systems, and the scope of promoting cordial industrial relations and improved working environments through social dialogue.