Social dialogue & conflict resolution mechanisms


Social dialogue and conflict resolution mechanisms in the acceding countries: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia

Prague, 14-16 January 2004

Speech abstract - Timo Kauppinen
Research Manager,
European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions

SOCIAL DIALOGUE AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION MECHANISMS IN THE ACCEDING COUNTRIES
Background and content of the project

Introduction

This project on “Conflict resolution mechanisms in the acceding countries” is derived from the previous European Foundation project on Social Dialogue and EMU in the Candidate Countries, which was carried out in 2002 in Estonia, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovenia and was extended to Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia in May 2003.

The Slovenian Government and social partners made a proposal for extending the project to cover and compare country experiences of conflict resolution in the Acceding Countries. The topic was welcomed with great interest in all acceding countries. The interest arises from the fact that interest conflicts are becoming more prominent in the countries when economic development is progressing and distribution of wealth is becoming more accurate. Another reason was that in all Acceding Countries they have adopted a law on conflict resolution about ten years back just after the revolution and transition to the market economies was at that moment very young. The then created system has worked quite well but needs revision, was a common answer of the requested people. They also mentioned that it would be good to have comparative information from other Acceding Countries but also from the EU countries.

Taking into account these comments and our experiences from the previous social dialogue workshops we decided to use social dialogue as a tool for making comparative analyses and drafting national development projects.

The purpose of the project

  • is to gather employers, trade unions, governments and researchers in order to investigate and assess
  • how social dialogue can best be utilised in the development of conflict resolution mechanisms for the Acceding Countries so that it generates social peace in harmony with employers and employees’ benefits.

Methods

The project on Social Dialogue and Conflict Resolution in the Acceding Countries is using the method of social dialogue foresight, which has been developed in the two Foundation projects, one dealing with foresight methods for knowledge society and applied to another previously mentioned project on social dialogue and economic and monetary union in the candidate countries.

Basic principle of the method is that social partners and the government have to work together when

  • analysing today’s situation,
  • making a vision on future development and challenges and
  • drafting a development project.

In order to facilitate discussion the Foundation has asked a national expert to prepare a background document on actual practices in conflict resolution. This 20-page report describes the number and nature of conflicts in each member states as well as conflict resolution models. The national expert has drafted a paper. National tripartite groups will discuss the reports in the Prague workshop and they will also make an analysis on the strengths and weaknesses of the conflict resolution mechanism.

Vision discussion on future challenges in conflict resolution will show the importance of well functioning conflict resolution models. Examples from the EU countries will clarify the mechanism of conflict resolutions and will feed the discussion on national conflict resolution development plans.

Guidelines for national reports on conflict resolution

In order to produce comparable national reports on conflict resolution the Foundation has drafted guidelines for national reports, which have been delivered to the national experts. The guidelines also try to put conflict resolution mechanisms into the national economic, political and industrial relations framework.

Content of the reports

The guidelines for the national conflict resolution reports are presented in two levels: first here are the general guidelines and in the annex you will find the more detailed guidelines with the number of pages on each topics. It was also stressed that these guidelines should be applied into the national context depending for example on the available information.

  1. The report should start by a short introduction into the topic
  2. Societal and industrial relation chapter should put strikes and lock-outs into the wider system of conflict resolution, which covers different social dialogue bodies in the national, sectoral and company level.
  3. Institutional basis for conflict resolution chapter should provide information on legal basis for right to strike and lock-out and also a description on how legal conflicts are settled. Legal conflicts are meant conflicts on interpretation of the content of the agreement. Another part should cover collective bargaining and strikes, how interest conflicts are settled. What are the mechanisms?
  4. Number of labour conflicts chapter should cover the basic statistical information about strikes and lock-outs as time-series. Basic information on number of conflicts, participants, days lost, and reasons. Official statistics should be used for union strikes and wild-cat strikes if available.
  5. Conflict resolution mechanisms chapter should describe the mechanism of
    • conciliation (conciliator helps partners to agree and reach and agreement, but is not actively participation in the process),
    • mediation (mediator make a proposal for agreement, but partners have right to accept or disapprove the proposal) an
    • arbitration (arbitrator has the power to make a final solution in the dispute case).
  6. Summary: a short description of the main national features for conflict resolution. The total length of the paper should be limited to 20 pages.

Prague workshop in October 2003 and January 2004

The European Foundation organised a workshop in Prague in October 2003 where the social partners and the government representatives of Estonia, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovenia discussed and approved the above outlined paper. The remaining five Acceding Countries (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia) will attend a workshop that will be organised in Prague in January 2004.

Social dialogue conference

Social dialogue in the Acceding Countries conference will be organised in March 2004 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The programme covers the main results and summaries on the Foundation projects on social dialogue and EMU in the candidate counties and social dialogue and conflict resolution mechanisms in the acceding countries.

The purpose of the conference is to discuss the outcome of the Foundation's work and evaluate how the implementation of the projects has taken place in the Acceding Countries. The conference provides good opportunities for benchmarking and for better use of social dialogue for the welfare of the societies.

Annex: Draft outline of the national reports

number of pages
1. Introduction 1
2. Societal and industrial relations framework for conflict resolution
  • economic and social tripartite bodies
  • industrial relations tripartite bodies
2
3. Institutional basis for conflict resolution
  1. Legal basis for strikes and lock-outs;
    1. right to strike and lock-out;
    2. legal conflicts (interpretation of the content of the agreement
  2. Collective bargaining and strikes and lock-outs;
    1. interest conflicts (like pay, working hours etc.)
5
4. Number of labour conflicts 1992-2002
  1. Number of strikes and lock-outs;
  2. Duration of strikes and lock-outs;
  3. Number of participants in strikes and lock-outs;
  4. Days lost of strikes and lock-outs;
  5. Reasons for strikes and lock-outs;
5
5. Methods used in conflict resolution
  1. Conciliation
  2. Mediation
  3. Arbitration
  4. Others
5
6.Summary 2
(total number of pages about 20)
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