Social dialogue roundtable: ACV Kader puts their own house in order

Social dialogue

It is not a bad thing to reflect on your own performance from time to time. This also holds true for us as a trade union. Do we handle social dialogue well, for example? Is there still room for improvement? To answer these questions, we bring together a professor, a negotiator and approximately 25 employee representatives for ACV Kader’s “Social Dialogue Roundtable” on 16 October in De Serre in Antwerp.

The assignment

We asked the group to determine the criteria of constructive and result-oriented social dialogue. The emphasis had to be on what we control ourselves (and not on what goes wrong on the other side of the table) so as to give employers room for input and to create an inspiring setting. This roundtable has resulted in a framework of ideas on social dialogue. We will gladly share them with you!

The insights

  • Debate and dialogue start from a different mindset: a “we versus they” attitude (employers versus employees and vice versa) in the case of debate, and the premise that nobody holds the truth in the case of dialogue. The latter perspective can cause a new wind to blow through the social landscape.
  • Some topics, such as quality of work, careers and work environment, lend themselves more to dialogue than to debate. We have to provide room for this. Employees who are attracted to these topics also help determine the nature of the conversation.
  • Participation is a way to deal with the trend towards individualisation and to transcend the tension between the individual and the collective. It furthermore makes employee representatives more aware of the importance of increasing investments in relationships with people on the shop floor again.
  • Job contents change at a record pace and new work forms make their appearance, which gives rise to high levels of uncertainty. Burnout sometimes becomes the “new strike” in that context. Not as a conscious form of protest, but as a symptom of a problem that transcends the individual but does not give the impression of being a collective issue.
  • Executives are also ‘ordinary’ employees. They are familiar with the concerns of their colleagues and the demands of a rapidly changing working environment. Their specific position enables them to deepen the dialogue and make it more understandable for both sides.


  • Invest in good preparations. Convince the employer of the added value of such preparations so that they can facilitate this.
  • Explain your motives.
  • Listen to others, including groups that are less close to you, and bring them together. Point out the importance of this to the employer.
  • Gain respect by communicating about objectives in a transparent manner.
  • Object to framing.
  • Share positive results and accomplishments.

… for employers

  • Listen and try to understand each other (what are the objectives of both parties, what are the expectations etc.).
  • Be honest and transparent.
  • Take the other person seriously.
  • Avoid emotions but show empathy.
  • Observe agreements so as to build trust.
  • Approach employee representatives as highly motivated employees who want the best for the company and their colleagues.
  • Reduce personal and social tensions.
  • Consult before making decisions.

… for employee representatives

  • Pay attention to the preparation and make creative proposals.
  • Adopt a patient attitude and be prepared to listen.
  • Remain constructive and radiate positivity and a belief in dialogue.
  • Dare to make concessions.
  • Keep in mind the human aspect and refrain from ad hominem attacks.
  • Substantiate your questions and decisions.
  • Foster the relationship with your fellow employees.
  • Speak as a group together with other trade unions and employees.
  • Adopt an empathic attitude but avoid intense emotions.

Auteur:Sandra Vercammen | Photo: iStock