Published in September 2022
Collective bargaining for an inclusive, sustainable and resilient recovery
Collective bargaining plays an important role in many countries in securing decent work and guaranteeing equality of opportunity and treatment.
The COVID-19 crisis made this importance even more evident. During the pandemic, collective bargaining was critical to protecting workers and reinforcing the resilience of enterprises and labour markets.
Explore this InfoStory to learn more.
The key to inclusive and effective governance of work
Collective bargaining is a fundamental principle and right at work. The effective recognition of this right enables voluntary negotiations between employers (or employers’ organizations) and workers’ organizations, which can result in a collective agreement.
How does collective bargaining contribute to the inclusive and effective governance of work?
Collective bargaining offers a unique model of co-regulation, one enacted by the parties themselves. Some of the features of this form of governance include:
It enables parties to tailor rules to their particular circumstances and to adapt them when circumstances change. It provides for “regulated flexibility” in respect of wages, working time and other conditions of work.
Inclusive labour protection
It facilitates inclusive labour protection, both in the coverage of enterprises and workers (e.g. workers on temporary contracts, migrant workers) by collective agreements and the manner in which such agreements address issues such as wages, social protection and terms of employment.
Enables sustainable enterprises
It helps create an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises, by promoting trust, cooperation and stability, the retention of firm-specific skills, and the pooled financing of social protection.
It strengthens compliance with statutory or negotiated labour standards, reducing statutory resources needed to monitor and enforce labour standards.
It forges resilience, by facilitating the trade-offs required to ensure business continuity and save jobs and earnings during a crisis, while transforming labour practices for a future with decent work.
What shapes collective bargaining coverage?
Over 1/3 of employees in 98 countries have their pay and other working conditions set by one or more collective agreements
The collective bargaining coverage rate ranges from 98% in Austria, France and Italy to around 1% in Ethiopia, Malaysia and Thailand.
Strong and representative employers’ and workers’ organizations are crucial for the effective representation of interests...
...in collective bargaining and the legitimacy of the outcomes and agreements reached.
Collective bargaining during the COVID-19 pandemic
Ensuring safe workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic
The tailoring of public health measures and joint oversight of occupational safety and health (OSH) in the workplace, together with the paid sick leave and healthcare benefits provided for in many collective agreements protected millions of workers, sustained key services and enabled businesses to continue operating during the pandemic.
Of the 512 collective agreements and practices examined by the ILO across 80 countries:
- 69% of agreements include measures ensuring safe workplaces
- 71% of agreements provide healthcare benefits and sick pay
Jobs and earnings: How collective bargaining mitigated the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis
Collective bargaining played an important role during the COVID-19 crisis in forging resilience, saving jobs, protecting earnings and safeguarding business continuity. Negotiated solutions also helped to cushion the pandemic’s effects on inequality.
A future with decent digital work practices
Stay-at-home measures and lockdowns throughout 2020 and 2021 accelerated the digitalization of work.
Agreements negotiated in response to the COVID-19-induced telework and hybrid working practices are now transforming into more durable frameworks.
The experimentation underway in the gig economy with collective bargaining is paving the way a future with decent digital work.
Negotiating for an inclusive, resilient and sustainable recovery
To realize the potential of collective bargaining to contributie to an inclusive, sustainable and resilient recovery, a number of priorities must be addressed.
Revitalizing employers’ and workers’ organizations
The representative function of employer and business member organizations (EBMOs) and trade unions – both in terms of membership strength and capacity to integrate diverse interests – is the bedrock of effective social dialogue, including collective bargaining.
Investment in membership recruitment and retention strategies is vital, as is the development of the necessary expertise to engage in inclusive and effective evidence-based policy dialogue and collective bargaining going forward.
Effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining for all workers
The ILO has repeatedly affirmed the universal nature of principles and rights enshrined in the fundamental Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98).
Realizing these principles and rights is only possible under a broader regulatory framework that encourages and promotes the full development of voluntary negotiations conducted in good faith.
Given the proliferation of diverse work arrangements in recent years, there is a need to review regulatory frameworks at the national level to ensure legal clarity, so that those needing protection are covered by labour laws and other laws and regulations.
Promoting collective bargaining
Collective bargaining needs to take place within an enabling regulatory framework established by the State – or in some countries, by the parties themselves.
Such a framework should promote the full development of voluntary negotiations, including through the provision and sharing of information, the training of negotiators and facilitation and dispute resolution services to support collective bargaining.
Investing in bipartite and tripartite social dialogue
Effective and inclusive social dialogue requires continued engagement on social and economic policy with and between peak-level employers’ and workers’ organizations, as well as with governments.
Investment in bipartite and tripartite social dialogue can provide the institutional means to ensure a human-centred recovery.
Reinforcing social dialogue for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals
Social dialogue, including collective bargaining, can contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
While social dialogue is clearly vital for attaining Sustainable Development Goal 8 (on decent work and economic growth), it can also support other Goals through its unique contribution to the inclusive and effective governance of work.
Find out more
To learn more about collective bargaining and its role in mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, explore the first edition of the new ILO flagship report, Social Dialogue Report 2022: Collective bargaining for an inclusive, sustainable and resilient recovery.