Mediators play a key role in promoting bipartite cooperation in the new normal era

Over the coming months and years, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely to continue to have dramatic impact on all aspects of life and business, including disputes and their resolution. In the face of economic uncertainty, the roles of mediation and mediators to assist in resolving workplace disputes have become more important.

News | Jakarta, Indonesia | 29 November 2021
To strengthen the capacities of Indonesian mediators across the country and to enhance the bipartite dispute settlements, the ILO in collaboration with the Ministry of Manpower conducted a webinar on 16 November, followed by two batches of practical training programmes for mediators across Indonesia from 17-18 and 22-23 November.

The interactive webinar to enhance the bipartite dispute settlement mechanism
Adriani, Director of Mediation of the Ministry of Manpower, highlighted the importance of mediators in creating harmonious industrial relations in time of the pandemic. The pandemic has significantly impacted the Indonesia’s world of work, causing loss of jobs and loss of working hours.

A national data shows that people who suffer loss of working hours have reduced from 24 million in August 2020 to 17 million in August 2021. It means that the conditions are improved, yet we need to continue strengthening the bipartite mechanism and the role of mediators."

Adriani, Director of Mediation of the Ministry of Manpower
“However, the current conditions are now improved with a good progress. A national data shows that people who suffer loss of working hours have reduced from 24 million in August 2020 to 17 million in August 2021. It means that the conditions are improved, yet we need to continue strengthening the bipartite mechanism and the role of mediators,” she said in her opening remarks before 400 participants.

Highlighting the importance of bipartite collaborations through social dialogues, Arun Kumar, ILO’s Specialist on Industrial Relations, presented that countries with good social dialogues were able to deal with employment issues. “In Singapore, for example, its tripartite committee are able to manage excessive workforce due to the pandemic, while in Japan, employers’ and workers’ organization have come into an agreement to apply flexible working system in order to avoid lay-offs,” shared Arun.

Bipartite negotiation is key

Testimonies from the provincial mediators
In responses to the importance of social dialogues, two mediators from the Provinces of Central Java and North Sulawesi, Umi Hani and Berty Tarijan, admitted that they focused on the promotion of mutual consensus and cooperation as the society norms of Indonesia. They both agreed that bipartite negotiations and agreements were the key to reach win-win solutions for both workers and employers, particularly in the time of crisis like COVID-19 pandemic.

During the interactive discussion, both representatives of employers and workers, Aloysius Budi Santoso, Deputy for Employment of the Indonesian Employers’ Association (Apindo) and Iwan Kusmawan, Member of National Assembly of the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Union (KSPI), agreed that both parties should have continuous dialogues to avoid conflicts and to reach agreement.

Workers still rely on the power-based approach through demonstrations. With improved negotiation skills, both workers and employers can utilize the bipartite mechanism to reach agreements."

Ida Susanti, lecturer of the Faculty of Law of Parahyangan Catholic University
“I am a strong believer that bipartite mechanism is the key mechanism for dispute settlement at the enterprise level. However, do not wait until we are in conflicts to make the best use of this bipartite institution,” said Budi. Similarly, Iwan emphasized the persuasive approach as part of the bipartite mechanism. “Both management and workers should have continuous dialogues.”

Ida Susanti, lecturer of the Faculty of Law of Parahyangan Catholic University, presented the result of her study about bipartite mechanism and mediation. She reminded that bipartite mechanism has significantly become important as the new Omnibus Law has focused on bipartite negotiation and agreement.

Therefore, Ida warned that there is a urgent need for improving workers’ negotiation skills in order to build mutual trust with the employers. “Workers still rely on the power-based approach through demonstrations. With improved negotiation skills, both workers and employers can utilize the bipartite mechanism to reach agreements,” she added.

Strengthening the capacity of mediators

As an immediate follow-up to the webinar, two batches of mediator training programmes were conducted, attended by more than 400 mediators across Indonesia. The training programmes were facilitated by US Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS).

Established in 1947, FMCS aims to preserve and promote labor-management peace and cooperation. FMCS is an independent, stand-alone federal agency that is beneficial since it allows mediators to focus solely on helping the parties resolve disputes, without worrying about legal or rights-based questions.

With a total number of mediators is less than 900 people, we need to ensure the re-generation of mediators and the implementation of effective mediation system as most of industrial relations disputes are handled by the mediators."

Heru Widianto, Director of Industrial Relations Institution and Dispute Prevention of the Ministry of Manpower
These training programmes focused on theories and practices on mediation, including standards of mediation—with a view to identify issues and factors that can make mediation more effective as a dispute resolution process. The participants were introduced to the various mediation models, tools, and ethics. In the practical session, they learned on getting to the agreement from the disputing parties.

Heru Widianto, Director of Industrial Relations Institution and Dispute Prevention of the Ministry of Manpower, emphasized that the Manpower Ministry continues to support the capacity building for the mediators, including the certification system and the improvement of personnel benefits for the development of mediation system in Indonesia.

“With a total number of mediators is less than 900 people, we need to ensure the re-generation of mediators and the implementation of effective mediation system as most of industrial relations disputes are handled by the mediators,” said Heru, commenting on the importance of these trainings for Indonesia’s mediation system and mechanism.

The live streaming of the interactive webinar can be viewed at ILO TV Indonesia.