This article is part of a series in which OECD experts and thought leaders — from around the world and all parts of society — address the COVID-19 crisis, discussing and developing solutions now and for the future.
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In a world struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic—not to mention coping with mega-trends such as new digital technologies, an ageing population and climate change—social dialogue can make a difference. It has played a key role in maintaining jobs during the crisis and has proved to be an efficient tool to reach balanced outcomes that benefit everybody.
In France, companies such as Airbus have negotiated several agreements to avoid mass redundancies, using a new government measure that makes it possible to switch to short-time work schemes for a period of two years. Social partners also decided to shift the focus from protecting individual jobs to promoting worker security. By helping employees move into different roles when required—either inside or outside their company—they remained in the labour market. This included a battery of measures to improve worker mobility, ranging from support to finding another job to resources for professional training.
Social dialogue is also an efficient tool to anticipate changes in the workplace due to technological innovation and artificial intelligence. Hamburger Hafen und Logistiks Aktien Gesellschaft, together with the works council and the trade union, did this by promoting and investing in multiple tech qualifications for workers, and through a collective agreement setting out how to engage in social dialogue throughout the process.
Social dialogue is also key to achieve gender equality, as illustrated by the Carrefour-UNI Global Framework Agreement. This bilateral arrangement covers one of the world’s largest retail distribution groups, and has a long-standing focus on promoting social dialogue and joint initiatives. It addresses discrimination, gender diversity, equal opportunities in hiring and promotion, support for pregnant and nursing women, and adjustments to hours and working conditions for staff returning from maternity or paternity leave.
To further highlight and develop the potential of social dialogue, the OECD has hosted the Global Deal partnership since 2019. It is a multi-stakeholder initiative promoting social dialogue as a means to contribute to decent work, quality jobs and increased productivity and, by extension, to greater equality and inclusive growth. By bringing governments, businesses and employers’ organisations, trade unions and other international organisations together, we can find joint solutions to common challenges. Among the key questions to be addressed are how social dialogue can play a role in triggering a job-rich and gender-sensitive recovery, and shape a labour market that creates productive and decent jobs for all workers.
This is why we are gathering our Global Deal partners 11–14 October for the first Annual High-Level Social Dialogue Forum: to showcase their commitments, exchange experiences and good practices, and discuss solutions for the future. Check out the Global Deal website to learn more about how social dialogue can shape the new labour market, and register now to join the dialogue!