Social dialogue

Social dialogue plays a critical role in achieving the ILO's objective of advancing opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equality, security and human dignity.  Social dialogue includes all types of negotiation, consultation and exchange of information between, or among, representatives of governments, employers and workers on issues of common interest.
  • Social dialogue and the practice of tripartism between governments and the representative organizations of workers and employers within and across borders are now more relevant to achieving solutions and to building up social cohesion and the rule of law through, among other means, international labour standards."

    ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization
How social dialogue actually works varies from country to country and from region to region. It can exist as a tripartite process, with the government as an official party to the dialogue or it may consist of bipartite relations between labour and management, with or without indirect government involvement. It can be informal or institutionalised, and often is a combination of the two. It can take place at the national, regional or at enterprise level. It can be inter-professional, sectoral or a combination of these.

Enabling the conditions of Social Dialogue

The ILO encourages tripartism within Member States by promoting social dialogue to help design and implement national policies. Achieving fair terms of employment, decent working conditions, and development for the benefit of all cannot be achieved without the active involvement of workers, employers and governments, including a broad-based effort by all of them. To encourage such an approach, one of the strategic objectives of the ILO is to strengthen social dialogue among the tripartite constituents. It helps governments, employers' and workers' organizations to establish sound labour relations, adapt labour laws to meet changing economic and social needs and improve labour administration.

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. Effective social dialogue depends on:
  • Respect for the fundamental rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining
  • Strong, independent workers' and employers' organizations with the technical capacity and knowledge required to participate in social dialogue
  • Political will and commitment to engage in social dialogue on the part of all parties
  • Appropriate institutional support
The ILO helps governments and employers’ and workers’ organizations establish sound labour relations, adapt labour laws to changing economic and social circumstances and improve labour administration. In supporting and reinforcing employers’ and workers’ organizations, the ILO helps to create the conditions for effective dialogue with governments and with each other.

Freedom of association

Effective dialogue implies the right freely to form and join groups for the promotion and defence of their occupational interests. Freedom of association and collective bargaining are among the founding principles of the ILO. Soon after the adoption of Conventions Nos. 87 and 98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining, the ILO came to the conclusion that the principle of freedom of association needed a further supervisory procedure to ensure compliance with it in countries that had not ratified the relevant conventions. As a result, in 1951 the ILO set up the Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) for the purpose of examining complaints about violations of freedom of association, whether or not the country concerned had ratified the relevant conventions.