Since 2001, China has established tripartite consultation mechanisms at various levels, from central down to district and county. These consultation mechanisms are designed to coordinate labour relations among the tripartite partners – labour administration, trade unions and employers’ organizations at corresponding levels and to spread good practices through social dialogue. However, how labour inspection can improve its services to workers and employers through social dialogue remains a challenge in China.
In other high-performance labour inspection systems, such social dialogue provides the foundation for effective labour inspection work. The labour inspectorate consults the social partner organizations at national and in particular branch or sector levels on where they see the problems and priorities, and then agrees on targets, projects or campaigns on an annual or even quarterly basis.
Given that the social partners are the “clients” of labour inspection services, and that they are in the best position to know what problems their members face at the workplace regarding labour law enforcement, it is important to have consultation mechanisms through which the views of the social partners can be reflected in developing labour protection policy and plans. This consultation process creates transparency, higher levels of acceptance and “ownership” of the compliance process among the duty-holders.
Workplace labour relations institutions can play an important role as a preventive mechanism, but in many workplaces they do not function optimally as tools to resolve problems through consultation and negotiation and thereby to prevent disputes. The less labour relations mechanisms at the workplace succeed in preventing and filtering problems, the more the public authorities, such as labour inspectorates, have to intervene, unnecessarily increasing the workload of those institutions. Therefore, labour inspectorates in many countries have an obligation to promote the establishment of workplace cooperation mechanisms through bipartite cooperation and dialogue among the parties in enterprises.
In China, the labour inspectorates promote the involvement of the social partners in labour inspection by appointing labour law supervisors in social organizations, including trade unions, women’s confederation and youth leagues. The Seminar will bring labour inspectors and law supervisors together to explore innovative ways to enhance the cooperation in order to strengthen labour inspection services and implementation of the newly adopted labour laws by employers and workers.