Conference on tripartism

EU Presidency Conference on Tripartism in an enlarged European Union

Co-organised by the Danish Ministry of Employment and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions

Hotel Comwell, Elsinore, Denmark
29-30 October 2002

See also conference information from the Danish Ministry of Employment.

Speech abstract - Youcef Ghellab
Senior Specialist on Social Dialogue and Industrial Relations, ILO-Central and Eastern Europe Team, Hungary

Sharing experiences - building capacities

For social dialogue and tripartism to operate effectively in the candidate countries, and this is true everywhere, there are some pre-conditions to be met, as follows:

  • First and foremost, the existence of strong and independent social partners which have the capacity and the legitimacy to engage effectively in:
    • (i) a tripartite dialogue with the public authorities on economic and social issues at national, regional and local levels as well as at the European level;
    • (ii) a bipartite social dialogue at enterprise and sectoral levels;
  • Secondly, the existence of structures within which tripartite and bipartite social dialogue can take place;
  • Thirdly, the existence of a political will on the part of the Government to consult and to have a meaningful dialogue with the social partners on economic and social policies.

What is the situation in the candidate countries with regards to the above-mentioned elements?

The experience of the ILO shows that the situation in the EU candidate countries in the region, even though there are differences between them, could be characterised as follows: the systems of social dialogue and tripartism are still weak from the points of view of: a) the capacity of the actors, b) the structures for social dialogue and c) the political will of governments.

Of course great efforts have been made in the last 10 years and significant results have been achieved:

  • independent workers' and employers' organisations have emerged;
  • tripartite institutions for social dialogue have been set up at national level and are operating;
  • reforms of labour legislation have been undertaken and in some countries a framework for worker participation in undertakings has been established.

In practice there are still a number of weaknesses and obstacles which are impeding the systems of tripartism and social dialogue from operating effectively. Among these weaknesses and obstacles one can mention:

  • The weak institutional and technical capacity of social partners to engage effectively in social dialogue, employers' organisations in particular, but also workers' organisations are weak. They lack resources (financial, human) because of their low membership. In some cases this weakness is aggravated by their excessive fragmentation and competition;
  • The weakness of the structures of social dialogue; for example, in some cases, tripartite institutions for consultation are more formal than effective;
  • Lack of political will on the part of some governments to engage in an effective tripartite cooperation with social partners.

All of these problems tend to impede the real functioning of social dialogue and tripartism in the candidate countries. If they are not addressed properly, they will prevent them from playing their role in the EU after enlargement. They need to be addressed.

ILO has been for a number of years now assisting them to strengthen their systems of social dialogue and tripartism. One of the strategies followed by the ILO has been to promote cooperation and exchange of experiences on social dialogue and tripartism among the candidate countries on the one hand, and between them and current EU Member States on the other; to enable them to learn from each other. This strategy has proved quite useful in building the capacity of the tripartite actors in the region and in strengthening the mechanisms for social dialogue.

Budapest, 2 October

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