Social dialogue is defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to include all types of negotiation, consultation or simply exchange of information between, or among, representatives of governments, employers and workers, on issues of common interest relating to economic and social policy. Social dialogue takes many different forms. It can exist as a tripartite process, with the government as an official party to the dialogue or it may consist of bipartite relations only between labour and management (or trade unions and employers’ organisations), with or without indirect government involvement. Concerted search for a consensus can be informal or institutionalised, and often it is a combination of the two. It can be inter-sectoral, sectoral or at enterprise level.
Social dialogue based on freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining takes into account each country’s cultural, historical, economic and political context. There is no ‘one size fits all’ model of social dialogue that can be readily exported from one country to another. Adapting social dialogue to the national situation is key to ensuring local ownership of the process. There is a rich diversity in institutional arrangements, legal frameworks and traditions and practices of social dialogue throughout the world.