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Feb 24, 2022 / 15:51

Social dialogue promotes decent work, inclusive growth

Swedish experience in social dialogue is believed to inspire policymakers and local businesses to promote such in the workplace.

Swedish businesses and unions have shared experience in social dialogue in the workplace, which can contribute to both better working conditions and increased productivity.

Swedish lessons, which were presented by Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Embassy of Sweden in Hanoi, the Swedish Workplace Programme (SWP), and multinational firms namely IKEA, H&M, on February 23 are seen as important for Vietnam’s partners in promoting inclusive growth.

 Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam Ann Måwe speaks at the seminar held in Hanoi on Feb 23. Photos: Embassy of Sweden in Hanoi

Addressing the event, Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam Ann Måwe stressed the importance of social dialogue in the face of the fourth wave Covid-19 in Vietnam in May 2021 as it brought about major challenges for the Vietnamese economy and society, including the shortage of labor, disrupted supply chains, as well as exposed social and economic vulnerabilities.

“The pandemic has also shed light on the need to re-think how we go about doing business so that we do it in a more sustainable way,” she said.

She said 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 over their own lives and better working conditions; companies win from increased productivity; society wins from social stability.

Role of social dialogue and lessons from Sweden

Social dialogue is a “hot” topic now as Vietnam and the EU are striving to further strengthen their trade relations via the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), which entered into force on August 1, 2020. The agreement includes a core sustainability chapter incorporating both environmental obligations as well as aspects relating to labor requirements.

VCCI Chairman Pham Tan Cong stressed that social dialogue is key to balancing the interests of workers and businesses in industrial relations while respecting national, cultural, and regional traditions.

“Social dialogue is seen as instrumental in securing more productive and efficient workplaces. Dialogue between employers and workers would help to solve problems without prolonged conflicts and would attract new investments as well as secure employment,” Cong said.

Supporting Vietnam in the field of labor rights remains a key component of the 52-year-old partnership between Sweden and Vietnam. Today, support is channeled through multilateral actors such as UNDP and ILO to further contribute to Vietnam’s sustainability and development. 

A more recent example is the Swedish Workplace Programme (SWP), launched in Vietnam in 2020. The SWP is implemented in partnership between the International Council of Swedish Industry (NIR) and the Metal and Industrial workers union, IF Metall.

Alessandra Cornale, Programme Director of SWP 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. Better relations lead to more engaged and productive employees and sustainable business.”

She affirmed that 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. For that reason, the SWP model has contributed to improved cooperation and reduced conflict at the workplaces where it has been implemented.

 Ann Linde, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, shares at the seminar.

Ann Linde, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden said: "Social dialogue in the workplace is not only a means to an end but also an end in itself. It stresses the value of the individual worker, while at the same time creating business and societal economic growth and prosperity."

She looks forward to congratulating Vietnam on ratifying the last of the eight fundamental ILO conventions in 2023. Doing so clearly signals a commitment to ensuring sustainable growth and development of society, which will benefit workers and businesses alike. It also ensures preconditions for better utilization of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, which includes strong labor rights provisions based on the ILO’s fundamental principles and rights.

Meanwhile, Giafar Safaverdi, Director, IKEA Purchasing & Logistics South East Asia, said “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. Our vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people; social dialogue plays a big part in promoting good labor conditions and productive business.” 

Christer Horn af Åminne, H&M Group Country Manager Cambodia & Vietnam said as a Swedish company, industrial relations are the natural foundation of how to engage with and drive positive impact for workers. In addition, working in the global fashion industry, they recognize how important industrial relations are to protect and promote human rights and believe that strong collaboration between trade unions and employers will create a win-win situation for everyone on the ground in the countries where we make our products. “The way forward is through dialogue and diplomacy, in all matters, complex or not,” he noted

The Swedish experience shows that by working with social dialogue and strengthening working conditions, the effects of unforeseen crises can be mitigated. No one can escape a pandemic, but with the right tools - unemployment and loss of income can be minimized, and decent work conditions and workplace safety can be maintained.

Nguyen Thi Ha, Deputy Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs at the seminar.