Successful sectoral social dialogue in the Western Balkans

From 3 to 4 December 2021 took place in Skopje, North Macedonia, a seminar about “Successful sectoral social dialogue in the Western Balkans”, organized by EUROFEDOP (Europese Federatie van het Overheidspersoneel), with the support of EZA and of the European Union. The seminar was part of the EZA special project for workers’ organisations in the Western Balkans.

The seminar was attended by 70 representatives of workers’ organisations from the Western Balkans region, with speakers from Romania and Poland.

All workers’ organisations in the Western Balkans that came together during the seminar are engaged in a process of reforming themselves. In these times of crisis, there is no shortage of tasks for trade unions in the public services. Dealing with these multiple challenges in a challenging political and economic setting, speakers and participants agreed on the usefulness of exchange of positive practices and the use of digital tools in trade union work and social dialogue. Trade unions should be active stakeholders and real dealmakers in the changes that happen during the digital revolution.

When aiming to effectively engage in social dialogue on the sectoral level, workers’ representatives need adequate skills and knowledge. They need to fill the content of social dialogue with the employer with very concrete issues in order to protect and promote workers’ rights. In the Western Balkan region, a culture of social dialogue needs to be strengthened, all social partners need to be aware and recognise themselves and their goals.

Recognising the topicality and usefulness of digital tools, several speakers provided an insight into how social media and other digital tools can be used by trade unions in multiple ways and for multiple goals. Participants learnt in-depth about methods and strategies, as well as very concrete practice in this regard. For workers’ organisations, the main functions of social media usage are being present and recognised on the local and/or national level and providing information, reporting and promoting their activities. In addition, social media can create a space for social dialogue and for keeping alive discussions on certain topics. Furthermore, digital communication channels provide an excellent means to attract new members and to communicate with young people.

The most recommended social media channels for trade unions are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Regular communication and the creation of content for these platform requires time and skills, hence training of trade union members is essential. European Union funds can be used to this end, as successful examples from the region highlight. During the discussions with the experts, participants raised specific questions regarding the use of social media.

Further best practice examples from trade unions in the region also covered the use of digital tools for the management of trade union activities and the organization of online trade union activities (such as protests for example).

The working group sessions allowed participants to develop and discuss potential ideas for regional cooperation in sectoral social dialogue and the use of digital tools in this respect. Ideas about a TV channel, about how to access funding opportunities and exchange experiences in this respect, communication about the violation of workers’ rights and exploring the possibilities to organize online protests were discussed amongst others.