Strengthening public sector dispute prevention/resolution through social dialogue and workplace cooperation

The training will focus on understanding of concepts of social dialogue, collective bargaining, workplace cooperation, grievance handling and international best practices on dispute prevention and resolution.

The ILO Country Office for Sri Lankan and the Maldives has been partnering with the Government of Sri Lanka in introducing social dialogue as a vehicle for strengthening public service delivery to its citizenry. The initiative is lead by the Ministry of Public Services, Local Government and Provincial Councils in partnership with the public sector trade unions with the technical support of the ILO.

A well-functioning public service is essential for efficient delivery of services to the citizenry. For good service outcomes, it is vital to have sound employee-employer relations. Unlike in the private sector, employees in the state sector do not have a formal forum or a mechanism to mediate, conciliate, or arbitrate problems of individual or collective nature in their workplaces, which  is reflected in frequent industrial action disrupting public service delivery. The public sector employees and their trade unions have been dissatisfied with the working conditions as well as lack of space for genuine dialogue at the workplace.

In 2014 an ILO diagnostic recommended a comprehensive new set of arrangements. That study proposed a new set of institutions to facilitate social dialogue in a formal way in the public service, across three levels, viz, Workplace, Sectoral and National.                                                                

With the increase of public sector strikes in key service sectors such as Health, Transport, Education etc, in 2020 a Gazette (Extraordinary) has been issued by His Excellency the President to “introduce an arbitration system for the settlement of employee disputes in the public service” with its key functions assigned to the Ministry of Public Services, Provincial Councils and Local Government. With this Gazette there has been renewed interest in revisiting the framework developed in 2014 and accordingly a separate unit; “Workplace Cooperation Unit” has been set up within the Ministry of Public Services, Local Government and Provincial Councils for leading this initiative. Health and Transport Sectors have been selected to pilot the initiative, given the high numbers of industrial action within these sectors.

In this context, a 2-day capacity building training has been organized for the members of the Workplace Cooperation Unit and the members of the Workplace Forums  at the pilot sites. The training programme will cover areas such as of Social Dialogue, Workplace Cooperation, Collective Bargaining and Grievance Handling, international best practices on Dispute Resolution and Prevention. The training programme is facilitated by the ILO Country Office in collaboration with the Decent Work Team Social Dialogue and Labour Administration Specialist, along with international and local resource persons.