What does the EUD consider to be the main challenges in improving social dialogue and labour market opportunities in North Macedonia?
Broadly speaking, it is vital at this stage that the country keeps up the momentum of the overall reform process. Further progress is needed in several areas: in the dialogue among political actors, judiciary and public administration reform, fight against corruption, freedom of expression and in the improvement of the business environment. Unemployment and poverty are major concerns as we pointed out in last EC Progress Report. Addressing these issues are not just tasks and responsibilities for the government, they need to be addressed by all stakeholders.
Social dialogue is one of the foundations of the national social market economy. I believe that in the current economic situation we need to reinforce the role of Social Partners and strengthen social dialogue more than ever. The countries making the best progress at the moment are the ones where social partnership is the strongest. In North Macedonia the legal provisions enabling functioning social dialogues are fairly adequate, but still the participation of the Social Partners in the policy- and decision-making processes is lagging behind. The performance of the Economic and Social Council as a lead institution for tripartite social dialogue, despite some improvements, still needs to be stronger. Also, Trade Unions in North Macedonia seem more focused on their internal leadership issues rather than protecting the interest of their constituency. Bipartite social dialogue between employers and employees also tends to be weak, and the collective agreements are missing or not respected. Overall, the influence of the Trade Unions and Employers’ Organizations is limited and their capacity needs to be scaled up.
What was the motivation of the EUD to support this project and to work with the ILO?
The ILO has specific expertise in promoting effective social dialogue involving Governments, Employers’ and Workers’ representatives at central and local level. The organization also worked extensively in implementing policies that safeguard the rights at work. The ILO draws on decades of experience in delivering such support to over 100 countries and has a proven standard-setting role in social policy and sustainable development. It is uniquely placed in the country to provide efficient and cost-effective technical support covering the full package of planned activities. We count on their contribution to capacity building of the national and local economic and social councils, their brokerage role in resolving key work and labour disputes as well as the analytical and policy-making support. The areas we look forward to seeing improvements in are key labour rights and labour standards, labour inspection, establishing minimum wage and promoting employment and skills policies, including gender equality. There is no other donor or development partner in the country that covers the complete list of activities and has the leverage to influence the policy-making.
What are your expectations towards the ILO throughout the cooperation?
The previous involvement of ILO in the EU project "Promoting Social Dialogue" implemented in the period 2014-2016 with the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) funding was very successful. It achieved a lot in activating the bipartite and tripartite social dialogue and strengthened the social partnership and collective bargaining on the industry, branch and company level. We expect from ILO to transfer its know-how in social dialogue, support to develop capacity and enhance efficiency of daily operations of Social Partners so that they can improve services towards their constituents.