Context:Given the unprecedented nature of the crisis and the staggering counter effects on workers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, social dialogue involving governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations has taken a more meaningful relevancy. Social dialogue includes all types of negotiation, consultation and exchange of information between or amongst representatives of governments, workers and employers on issues of common interest in the areas of economic, labour and social policy. It can take place at the national, sectoral and enterprise levels.
The ILO highlights the importance of the adoption of policy measures in response to the crisis and has established a policy framework aiming to tackle the economic and the social impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is comprised around four key pillars; Pillar 1: Stimulating the economy and employment, Pillar 2: Supporting enterprises, jobs and incomes, Pillar 3: Protecting workers in the workplace, Pillar 4: Relying on social dialogue for solutions. As regards the latter, ILO considers of hugely importance to first strengthen the capacity and resilience of employers’ and workers’ organisations, second, strengthen the capacity of governments and third, strengthen social dialogue, collective bargaining and labour relations, institutions and processes.
The ILO recognises that social dialogue can help constituents to reach collective solutions that take into consideration the needs of enterprises and workers; it can also promote the stability and restoration of the public confidence. In many instances, social dialogue has proven to be effective in the formulation of tailored and coordinated policy interventions. Similarly, social dialogue can further contribute to build back better a new normality moving forward. Indeed, through dialogue and concerted actions amongst governments, employers’ and workers’ organisations, policies and programmes can be designed and implemented to deal with the immediate health crisis and to mitigate the effects of some of these measures on employment and incomes.
In many countries and particularly in the CARICOM region, workers’ organisations have been at the forefront of the response to the challenges brought about by the crisis. They have been proactively developing policy proposals for government action on social protection and employment retention schemes to be discussed in the framework of social dialogue institutions. They have also successfully influenced and/or supported national policies to protect lives, jobs and incomes, particularly in relation to wage and income support for freelancers, the self-employed and gig workers; loan relief for rent or mortgage payments; and the provision of free health care.
The ongoing crisis provides workers’ organisations with even more reasons to engage further with the United Nations Development System (UNDS), which is responsible for supporting the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and resilience at the national level. It has become of extreme importance that trade unions play an important role in advocating to identify their countries’ needs and in tailoring the UNDS response to meet workers’ needs and expectations and to strengthen their capacity moving forward.
The Covid-19 pandemic does not justify any restriction on the fundamental rights at work enshrined in international labour standards, and full respect for these rights is a precondition for effective social dialogue. Strengthening social dialogue and respect for labour rights are therefore essential. However, in order to implement it, the strengthening of each of the actors is a priority, paying special attention to the workers' sector not only in their capacity to negotiate, but also in deepening the arguments for agreements in the new phase, recognising that in the post-pandemic period the world will be left with a high level of unemployment, inequality, poverty, debt and political frustration.
In this regard, it is necessary to resume the agendas already adopted by the international community in the previous stage of the pandemic with regard to the commitment to make far-reaching transformations in the processes of development on a global scale and in the world of work, through the adoption of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and its 2030 Agenda and the ILO Centenary Declaration on the future of work.
The ILO considers it appropriate that the governments set the goal of achieving better reconstruction as a key element of their recovery plans, both individually and jointly, rather than returning to the situation that existed before the crisis. In this direction, social dialogue and the ILO Centenary Declaration provide inputs for a people-centred agenda for the future of work that involves investment in building the capacity of people, labour institutions and sustainable employment in the future.
- To establish an in-depth virtual discussion roundtable on the importance of the fourth pillar, the existing conditions of social dialogue there are in the Caribbean during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially during the phase of building back better while strengthening the trade union movement in light of the guidelines of the ILO Centenary Declaration.
- To analyse the social dialogue scenarios prior to the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the responsiveness that constituents have had in order to support their members and workers in general.
- To reflect on the challenges and issues that constituents are facing in light of the pandemic and the role of strengthening their capacities through social dialogue mechanisms.
- To identify opportunities in the development of trade union proposals, vis-à-vis other actors, in order to make social dialogue effective, which takes into consideration, amongst other elements, the ILO Centenary Declaration and trade union core values.
- To discuss trade unions priorities while supporting members and their families and establishing a way forward.