Tripartite Negotiating Forum: Reinvigorating the social contract

Steps to institutionalise social dialogue in Zimbabwe, although small and measured, look promising as there are many positive examples from Africa to learn from. There is little reason to fail as the ILO Global Commission report: Working for a Brighter Future calls for a human-centred agenda for the future of work that reinvigorates the social contract by placing people and the work they do at the centre of socio-economic and business practices.

News | 30 July 2019
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Recently, the ILO partnered with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) under their EU funded “Promoting and Reinforcing Social Dialogue in Zimbabwe” and convened a half-day seminar held that brought together stakeholders to share and discuss the role that social dialogue can play in driving socio-economic recovery and growth in Zimbabwe.

Under the ambit of one of its Decent Agenda strategic pillars on ‘Social Dialogue’, the ILO is making concerted effort and support to institutionalize social dialogue under the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF). This support entails ILO supporting the re-building of trust and respect between and among the tripartite partners and re-convening of dialogues to address the increasing and diverse challenges in the world of work.

A presentation on “Promoting and Reinforcing Social Dialogue in Zimbabwe” by Limpho Mandoro, a Social Dialogue Specialist from the ILO Decent Work Team in Pretoria, South Africa, outlined some of the good practices and experiences of countries that have used social dialogue to come out of crises. He noted that social dialogue enables social partners to express their needs, interests, fears and concerns; make known their views on decisions made by government and public authorities that affect them; allows citizens’ participation in decision-making processes and helps governments to strike a balance between conflicting interests; facilitating tripartite consensus.

Mandoro said social contracts have been useful to foster national consensus on the socio-economic development path of any country; clearly defining respective roles and responsibilities of the parties involved.

Sharing examples from other African countries, Mandoro said nearly 40 African countries had signed agreements to enhance stability and peace; with 26 social pacts now in place.

In Benin, a National Council for Social Dialogue was established in 2016, and the Governments of Senegal and Togo increased the budgets of their national institutions for tripartite social dialogue in 2016; with institutions in Côte d’Ivoire (2015) and Guinea (2016) getting strengthened .

In 2017, Chad’s National Commission for Social Dialogue brokered an agreement between the government and public sector unions that helped to end a three-month strike in public services and to mitigate the impact of the oil-price crisis. The tasks of the High Council for Labour Relations in Senegal and the High Council for Social Dialogue in Burkina Faso, the national institutions for tripartite social dialogue, were strengthened in 2014 and 2017, respectively, to include preventing and settling major labour disputes and enhancing peace and stability. The tripartite partners in Benin signed pacts for economic and social development.

According to the ILO, social dialogue in South Africa also played a crucial role in ensuring a relatively smooth political and economic transition from apartheid to democracy. The representatives of the government, workers’ and employers’ organizations and other civil society representatives have established a forum, the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC), where different interests are voiced and where actors can reach consensus on how to best address the immense challenges facing that country.

Through social dialogue, the partners adopted a far-reaching declaration committing to engaging in social dialogue over substantive issues, and implemented major social and economic reforms through a consensus building process.

When the effects of the global economic crisis began to exacerbate the already high levels of unemployment, South Africa was well equipped to confront these added challenges.

A report by the European Union Commission notes that in Tunisia, social partners have been among the main actors to co-achieve with other civil society organizations the democratic transition. This led to international praise for their support to a peaceful process.

The ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work report titled: Working for a Brighter Future calls for a human-centred agenda for the future of work that reinvigorates the social contract by placing people and the work they do at the centre of socio-economic and business practices. The reinvigorated social contract should give working people a just share of economic progress, respect for their rights and protection against risk in return for their continuing contribution to the economy.

There are many good examples for Zimbabwe to learn from.

At the same meeting, Ms Hopolang Phororo, the ILO Country Director for Zimbabwe and Namibia implored to Zimbabweans: “Our hope now, is that social dialogue will be given a sincere chance, democratic space for social dialogue will be strengthened giving everybody a voice in shaping the changes under way and the quality of their working lives. More importantly, we hope that parties can renew their faith in tripartism. The next 100 years are like a blank page that affords us a chance to collectively write a good story that is worth reading and to do so, we must have a common vision.”