Social dialogue: a win-win tactic for businesses and workers

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Ly Ly Cao

HÀ NỘI — Social dialogue has become more important to connect companies’ leaders and workers, especially during COVID-19.

It is not only the tool to solve inner problems among employees and managers, but also boosts sustainable development of both businesses and society, experts said.

On Wednesday, the Embassy of Sweden Hà Nội in collaboration with the Việt Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and the Swedish Workplace Programme (SWP) jointly organised a hybrid seminar “How Social Dialogue Contributes to Sustainable Business During and Post Pandemic” to support Vietnamese enterprises and related agencies to find a suitable social dialogue model.

Speaking at the event, Swedish Ambassador to Việt Nam Ann Måwe emphasised the negative impact of the pandemic on the Vietnamese economy and society, and believed that social dialogue can help the Government, companies and workers to overcome these challenges, while promoting decent work, job quality and inclusive growth.

Ann Måwe, Swedish Ambassador to Việt Nam, spoke at the event held at Melia Hotel, Hà Nội. — Photo courtesy of Embassy of Sweden in Hà Nội

”When the fourth wave hit Việt Nam in May 2021, it brought with it major challenges for the Vietnamese economy and society: a shortage of labour, disrupted supply chains, as well as exposed social and economic vulnerabilities,” she said.

”In our view, social dialogue is a key element for a well-functioning market economy, fostering a more cohesive society, inclusive growth, and sustainable business. Workers win by gaining influence of their own lives and better working conditions; companies win from increased productivity; society wins from social stability.”

Similarly, Alessandra Cornale, Programme Director of Swedish Workplace Programme (SWP), which was launched in Việt Nam in 2012, believes that stronger workplace cooperation helps to achieve innovative and sustainable business solutions.

”With social dialogue, strong relationships between management and employees at the workplace are fostered,” she said.

“Better relations lead to more engaged and productive employees and sustainable business. Social dialogue is also a tool for companies to identify and mitigate risks and establish a concrete method for handling challenging situations in the workplace.”

The SWP model has contributed to improved cooperation and reduced conflict at the workplaces where it has been implemented, she added.

With the European Union-Việt Nam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) entering into force on August 1, 2020, Vietnamese enterprises will need to improve significantly to meet requirements in both environment and labour in order to corporate with EU institutes.

The Swedish ready-to-take furniture giant, IKEA, believes that social dialogue is a key to boosting its business.

“We at IKEA want to be leaders in creating a fair and equal society that benefits the many. It is the right thing to do and we believe it strengthens our business,” he said.

“Our vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people; social dialogue plays a big part in promoting good labour conditions and productive business.”

The concept of social dialogue was first introduced into the Labour Code of Việt Nam in 2012 and since then, VCCI has introduced it to members, Trần Thị Lan Anh, deputy head of VCCI’s Bureau for Employers’ Activities, said at the event.

“Social dialogue helps employers and employees share information, listen to each other, creating an environment of respect and trust, transparency and openness, from which it is possible to build a healthy workplace,” Lan Anh said.

“In the current context, COVID-19 has affected not only workers’ incomes, but also their morale. Social dialogue can help workers share and help increase productivity.”

A business, which can build a healthy workplace, certainly can gain trust from partners, markets and the Government, thereby indirectly or directly promoting the development of the enterprise, Lan Anh said based on her experience while implementing the programme at VCCI’s members.

While social dialogue has been implemented in developed countries for a long time, such as the Swedish social dialogue model established in Sweden almost 100 years ago, the programme has been applied in Việt Nam for more than ten years. There are obstacles that both employers and employees face while implementing social dialogue in the workplace.

“It will take a lot of time for Vietnamese to form habits and culture to build social dialogue like advanced countries,” the deputy head of VCCI said.

“It is difficult for employees to create a habit of sharing information, while businesses also struggle to listen to their workers.”

“Businesses applying the programme need to understand clearly what benefits they gain from social dialogue. And only when businesses’ leaders understand this, can they organise and deploy effective social dialogue.”

The investment in social dialogue is not a matter of cost, but of harmonious labour relationships within enterprises, Lan And said, adding that in the process of implementing the programme, enterprises need to learn the appropriate models because each enterprise has a different culture and size.

And the Swedish model is also a good choice, she recommended. — VNS

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