Our impact, their voices

A win-win result through social dialogue

Social dialogue training builds empathy between employers and workers in Bangladesh

Feature | Dhaka | 31 December 2017
There can be only one winner in a battle. Social dialogue is a win-win for both employers and workers.
On the word go, battle commences between employers and workers. Amid grunts and giggles, 30 women and men engage in arm-wrestling matches in a spacious room scattered with tables, papers, pens and water bottles. Nazneen Nahar, a trade union activist curls her wrist tightly to swiftly bring down her opponent who is impersonating an employer. Yet neither of them looks elated when the match is over.

Simulating the negotiation process between employers and workers, the game forms part of a Training of Trainers course on Collective Bargaining and Grievance Handling organized by ILO’s Social Dialogue and Industrial Relations project in Bangladesh, and provided by the International Training Centre of the ILO. The project, which is funded by Sweden and Denmark works to facilitate dialogue between employers and workers with an aim to enhance workplace rights and industrial relations in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector.

Trained as a lawyer, Nahar provides legal advice to union members. “The game taught us that applying force results in only one winner. But if we can negotiate strategically, a win-win solution for both parties can be reached. I have learnt different negotiation techniques during this course which will help me to mediate disputes in the workplace,” she says.

Twenty Two members from employer organizations and 44 from worker organizations took part in the training. A representative from Bangladesh Employers Federation (BEF) Md Kamruzzaman remarked that bringing workers and employers in one forum helped exchange new ideas. “We became more open-minded when we understood each other’s viewpoints. This will improve our day-to-day interaction in the workplace.”

His views were echoed by Urmila Barua who works at Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA). She said, “When we sit down with workers and discuss, we realize the justification in their demand. We don’t see them as opponents anymore. This type of training helps to change the mindset of both parties.”

Under its SDIR project, ILO Bangladesh has conducted a series of similar workshops for employers, workers and government officials on collective bargaining, grievance handling and trade union registration. The workshop participants have been developed as master trainers who will provide further training to workers through the Workers Resource Centre (WRC) and to employers through the Centre of Excellence for Bangladesh Apparel Industries (CEBAI).In addition they will assist the establishment of grievance handling procedures in 500 RMG factories.

Mahandra Naidoo, the Chief Technical Advisor of the SDIR project, highlighted the important role the trainers will play. “These trainers will work on behalf of the employers and workers organisations to support wider outreach and capacity building in the ready-made garment sector. They will play a vital role in facilitating negotiations and mediating disputes at enterprise level which will benefit workers and businesses alike.” 

The training took place from 28 November to 7 December 2017 at BRAC CDM in Savar.