The ILO tripartite approach – governments working together with labour unions and employers - provides a means of solving social disputes through dialogue. This structure, unique in the UN System, becomes vital in times of heightened social tension, when the respect for, and use of, mechanisms of social dialogue, including collective bargaining, is needed for a sustainable recovery.
Both employers’ and workers’ organizations played a major role in the global efforts to mitigate the crisis.
The global economic crisis has buffeted the real economy and nearly all employers, from the largest corporations to the smallest enterprises, including self-employed, had to rethink their business plans and to maintain themselves through the downturn.
In Australia, basic measures drawn from the Pact included a shift in working arrangements, allowing companies to reduce costs when demand failed, without massive layoffs. This flexible approach allowed employment rate and labour market to remain strong, with a stable unemployment forecast at 6 percent for 2010.
The most recent working paper “Employers’ Organisations responding to the impact of the crisis” cites a number of examples where collective action has been used. In Chile, the Confederación de la Producción y del Comercio (CPC) adopted in May 2009 a tripartite Labour Protection Pact with the government and the trade unions to prevent job losses, with the hope that the six measures taken under the Pact will reduce the unemployment rate by 1.5 percentage points benefiting some 125,000 workers.
Similar agreements were concluded in many other countries, including South Africa, where the social partners adopted a Framework Agreement, which sets out the collective response of government, organized labour, business and community to the crisis.
The Bureau for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV), concerned with the social effects of the crisis on workers and their families, set up the ACTRAV Helpdesk on Financial and Economic Crisis offering advice and information for workers and trade unions worldwide.
The service – facilitated by the International Trade Union Confederation, the World Federation of Trade Unions, the Organisation of African Trade Union, the Global Union Federations and the national trade union centres – is acting also as a depository centre of knowledge available to all. Working people, who are already bearing the brunt of the crisis, must be also part of the solution and have a seat at the discussion table about causes, consequences and recovery strategies.