Tripartite Social Dialogue to Build Trust and Collaboration Among Government, Business and Labour

Negotiating and Bargaining
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Manager, South Africa

Tripartite Social Dialogue to Build Trust and Collaboration Among Government, Business and Labour

National tripartite social dialogue brings together government, workers and employers to discuss public policies, laws and other decision-making that affects these social partners. Tripartite consultations can ensure greater cooperation among the tripartite partners and build consensus on relevant national policies. Social dialogue is a key instrument in promoting and achieving decent work, inclusive development and social cohesion, and it encourages good governance.

  Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Tripartite Social Dialogue: the Dutch Polder Model

The Dutch "Polder model" (or "Poldermodel" as it is written in the Dutch language) is a term used since the 1980s to describe the acclaimed Dutch version of consensus-based economic and social policy making. The term quickly took on a wider meaning, to denote similar cases of consensus decision-making in the Dutch fashion.
It can be described with phrases like "a pragmatic recognition of pluriformity" and "cooperation despite differences".

The polder model is characterised by a tri-partite cooperation between:
- Employers Organizations
- Labor unions, and
- Government (national).
In The Netherlands, the cooperation and talks described above are embodied in the Sociaal-Economische Raad (SER, Social Economic Council). The SER serves as the central forum to discuss labour issues and has a long tradition of consensus.

Key benefits of this approach are the avoidance of labor conflicts and strikes, especially in challenging economic and/or social conditions in which painful measures have to be taken.
A key disadvantage associated with the model is that the process is supposed to be very time-consuming. That's why the word polder model and especially the verb "polderen" (English: to polder) has been used pejoratively by some politicians to describe the slow decision-making process, where all parties have to be heard.
Others argue that this disadvantage is only cosmetic and not real, since very complex problems require long consideration and involving all interests, thus gaining a lot of buy-in before difficult decisions are made (and winning back even more time through faster and better implementation).

CxO / Board, New Zealand

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