A partnership to promote workplace dialogue and sustainable economic development

Partnerships and dialogue can increase positive impacts and broaden the scope of operations of Swedish business in developing countries. Through a strategic partnership with Business Sweden, a Team Sweden member, the Swedish Workplace Programme (SWP) prepares global launch.

The partnership between the International Council of Swedish Industry, IF Metall and Business Sweden gives positive synergies that contributes to the impact of the Swedish Workplace Programme in countries where the programme is implemented. Best practices will be shared and activities coordinated. The Swedish Workplace Programme (SWP) is a Swedish Development Cooperation programme that aims to promote social dialogue and sustainability in workplaces by following the value chains of Swedish companies. Regional Programme Coordinators will share office with Business Sweden in South Africa, Kenya, Vietnam and Colombia.

“This partnership adds a new practical dimension on how to increase the sustainability footprint in value chains and contribute to develop relations and partnerships in regions”, says Alessandra Cornale, Global Programme Director, Swedish Workplace Programme.

” With most developing countries evolving towards sustainable manufacturing, mining and supply chains etc, it is necessary for Sweden and Swedish business to have a coordinated and inclusive approach. This specific programme is a perfect example of a successful implementation and collaboration, and shows how the different stakeholders under the Team Sweden umbrella complement each other”, says Ludvig Hermansson, Trade Commissioner South Africa, Business Sweden

Team Sweden is a network of 19 governmental authorities and organisations that collectively work to promote trade, investments and the internationalisation of Swedish business. Sustainable development is a cornerstone of Sweden’s trade promotion. The promotion of economically, socially and environmentally sustainable development and the 2030 Agenda is key. The cooperation in Team Sweden enables its member organisations to share best practices and coordinate activities.

Business Sweden, with its 44 offices across Europe, Americas, Middle East & Africa and Asia Pacific, is the Team Sweden member with the most employees abroad. Jointly owned by the Swedish state and the Swedish business sector Business Sweden acts on a mandate to help international companies gain access to the Swedish market and support Swedish business expansion abroad.

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lack of enabling environment for social dialogue at the workplace level, despite the provision of legislative acts that protect and promote workplace cooperation is a reoccuring issue  in Kenya. To implement good policy there must be a fertil ground.

Therefore SWP developed the UP!  project. Together with Swedish companies as an entry point, and with unions i South africa and Kenya. 

In Kenya SWP created the SWP UP! Programme targeting skills development of the union Shop Stewards from 18 companies in the Automotive sector in Kenya during 2021. As a result, the Stewards were able to use their skills to build trust and cooperation with management in new ways to avoid conflicts. 

A second cohort of training, in close cooperation with union AUKMW, takes place in 2022.

The training allows shop stewards to step out of their daily routines and understand their role and the purpose of their union, understand the labour market context, the laws that regulate relationships and the business itself. But on a human level, many shop stewards also highlighted that they feel respected as human beings, and that they have developed the skills to engage with supervisors and management and experience respect in professional relations. The experiences had deeply impressed them and helped to project the vision of dialogue and mutual respect and their own potential as a means to change workplaces.

The intervention of the SWP programme had a direct effect at the workplaces, where shop stewards listed several cases where they had managed to intervene and secure results in dialogue with management, avert crises or find solutions based on opportunities and the communication skills obtained during the SWP training. For the Amalgamated Metal Workers Unions in Kenya, the shop stewards pointed to how the training had enabled them to design their own strategies at the workplace in relation to supervisors and staff, and to achieve many concrete results.

Based on this shop steward upskilling, I feel confident that as a union we now have change ambassadors that will grow the industry, protect, and promote decent work principles for both the employer and the employees represented. And that disputes will be dealt with at the workplace level by though consultative dialogue.

Rose Omamo

General Secretary
Amalgamated Union of Kenya Metal Workers