Dealing effectively with industrial relations conflicts
The world of work has been changing rapidly in this era of globalization, putting under stress the industrial relations system in many countries, where the rising number of industrial disputes has put much pressure on the under-resourced, under-staffed dispute resolution machinery. Many governments are realizing that improving the labour relations environment and enhancing the prospects of industrial peace is essential for meeting the economic and social development challenges facing their countries.
A lot of initiatives are therefore being taken to promote effective management of conflict and the resolution of industrial disputes in different countries, with varying results. Processes like conciliation and mediation are used increasingly, because they help relieve pressure on the court system, which in many countries has become overloaded with cases, leading to delays and rising costs for both workers and employers.
While conciliation and meditation have gained widespread acceptance, in many countries these processes do not work effectively and often just add to the delays in dispute resolution, leading the parties back to the overburdened industrial courts.
It is in this context that the ILO’s standards and Recommendations relating to social dialogue can play an effective role in dispute resolution at both industrial and national level. In particular, the ILO’s core standards – freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining – lay the basis for democratic and stable labour relations and facilitate effective management of conflict in so far as they enable workers and employers to reach a mutually negotiated agreement on industrial relations issues at the workplace.
The principle of autonomy and independence for social partners plays an important role in effective dispute resolution. Collective agreements reached by independent and autonomous organizations have credibility among members and will therefore be respected. The same principle applies to the conciliation and mediation process.
Collective bargaining can be advantageous to both workers and employers. Collective bargaining gives workers an opportunity to secure adequate wages and working conditions by providing them with a collective voice. For employers, collective bargaining can facilitate industrial peace, which otherwise may be disrupted by labour unrest. Negotiated settlements can also help with modernizing and restructuring.
If collective negotiations fail, the disputes can be solved through conciliation/ mediation, with adjudication being the last resort.
It is therefore essential to equip social partners with a good understanding of negotiation techniques, so as to allow the parties to reach optimal outcomes, rather than sub-optimal compromises or win-lose outcomes. Mutually agreed resolution of disputes through negotiated settlement, conciliation or mediation can commit parties to the solutions and foster cooperation, including cooperation over company goals.
Workplace negotiating, conciliation and mediation procedures and skills have, as a consequence, a major role to play in balancing the interests of employers and workers and in promoting industrial peace and therefore social and economic development.
In response to an evident and growing need for conciliation and mediation skills, together with improved union and employer negotiation skills in many countries, the International Training Centre of the ILO, in cooperation with a group of international experts, has developed training packages and training activities which aim at strengthening knowledge and skills in these fields.
A series of training activities on these subjects are taking place at the Centre. To keep abreast, please visit our online calendar regularly!