Social dialogue and workplace cooperation in the public sector

A professional, modern, effective and efficient  public service is essential for the optimal delivery of  public services. A responsive public sector labour dispute resolution system, based on social dialogue, is essential to building a high performing public service, and strengthening its capacity to deliver services to all Sri Lankans.

The ILO has  been partnering with the Government of Sri Lanka, through the Ministry of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government, in introducing reforms aimed at strengthening the public sector labour dispute resolution mechanism. These reforms are intended to support the establishment of dispute prevention and resolution mechanisms at workplace, sectoral and national levels. 
The initial phase of this initiative is focussed on strengthening social dialogue and workplace cooperation at workplace level through the establishment of Workplace Forums (WPFs) consisting of representatives from trade unions and management across all job categories. The mechanism is being piloted in two sectors: Transport and Health.  

A two-day learning event was held for strengthening of the capacities of workplace forums of the Transport sector pilot sites from 30-31 August 2022. The training consisted of practical sessions on the concepts of social dialogue and workplace cooperation including identification of features of a good workplace; developing a labour relations in the public sector framework in Sri Lanka, the process of collaborative problem-solving, dispute prevention and dispute resolution. Grievance handling through tools and techniques such as interactive sessions, case studies, mock sessions, group exercises were used in the learning process.

Pre and post evaluation conducted through a qualitative assessment it was observed that the participants overall understanding of the concepts, and the workings of the WPFs and positive impact of such a forum at the workplace had substantially improved as a key outcome of the workshop. 
"This training helped me to understand the important role and the responsibility that I carry as a union representative ... and how I can get better gains for my members through a system of cooperation and dialogue and collaborative problem solving vs an adversarial approach with the management". Another unionist said, "If the spirit of cooperation and genuine dialogue exists at the workplace and due recognition is given to the workers ... that feeling of shared responsibility will be a great motivation for increased productivity and cost saving for the workplace"                                                                          

"Although informal mechanisms are available for workers to approach the management, having this type of forum at the workplace allows for  joint decision making and creates a sense of camaradarie between workers and management and will greatly contribute towards maintaining industrial harmony and increased productivity", said the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Ratmalana Railway Workshop.