Workplace cooperation is fundamental for human rights and just transition

Strengthening and making the organizational culture inclusive is a challenge for companies. But did you know that social dialogue is a great tool to achieve this goal? When companies have a dialogue with their employees, unions, workers and the Government, policies and agreements are built that benefit the entire organization.

Guías Colombia is an initiative in Colombia committed to promoting responsible business behaviour. As part of FIP and SWP alliance, SWP was invited to frame and moderate the Guías Colombia annual Webinar.  SWP’s Regional Coordinator Maria Angélica Castilla moderated and participated in a webinar on dialogue and cooperation at work as a commitment to promote decent work and the just transition.

A particularly relevant issue due to the high rates of unemployment, informality and precarious working conditions in Colombia, which have highlighted the need for a social dialogue that ensures a pact for decent work, with a focus on human rights.

With the aim of addressing the particularities of social dialogue, as a commitment to a just transition, the webinar featured the interventions of María Camila Agudelo, Director of Public Affairs of the Legal Vice Presidency of the National Association of Entrepreneurs (ANDI); Juan Carlos Monge, Deputy Representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR Colombia); Isis Andrea Muñoz, Deputy Minister of Labour Relations and Inspection, Ministry of Labour; the moderator of the webinar, Maria Angélica Castilla, Regional Coordinator of the Swedish Workplace Programme (SWP); Andrés Hernández, Director of Business and Human Rights of the IFJ and the Technical Secretariat of Guías Colombia.

Promoting decent work

Andres Hernandez, FIP director for Responsible Corporate Conduct, introduced the event explaining the importance of talking about just transition in the context of ongoing work towards climate change mitigation activities, and the importance of social dialogue to avoid “leaving anyone behind”.  

Andres Hernandez
Maria Angélica Castilla

Maria Angélica Castilla highlighted that structured dialogue and cooperation in industrial relations are essential pillars to promote decent work. This is because they allow building the consensus and cohesion necessary for the generation of inclusive organizational cultures that promote alignment and communication at all levels, in order to generate a better adaptation to changing scenarios and greater competitiveness.

Maria Angélica Castilla added that, for the scope of the just transition, it is important to consider scenarios such as the transformation of less polluting production processes, the generation of green jobs and bio economies in order to keep business competitiveness afloat. Otherwise, it would impact global economies along with thousands of jobs.

Juan Carlos Monge, Deputy Representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, recalled that during the 2021 national strike, by many of the underlying demands, companies were part of the solution. Therefore, it is necessary to define a role for companies and unions in the national agenda, to balance the parties within collective bargaining.

He also deepened that a transition to a green economy requires identifying the impacts on human rights in different population groups for them to be managed in a democratic and horizontal way. Finally, he called for strengthening labour protection policies for all labour forces, especially for rural workers, who have always had lower levels of job security and high levels of poverty. Juan Carlos Monge pointed out that:

“Social dialogue is important in due diligence processes and inclusion processes to close the gaps between the city and the countryside.”

Juan Carlos Monge
María Camila Agudelo

María Camila Agudelo, Director of Public Affairs of the Legal Vice Presidency of the National Association of Entrepreneurs, stressed that social dialogue is fundamental for the construction of the country and that, through tripartism (workers, government and employers) growth, peace and general welfare can be promoted. In turn, she pointed out that:

“Policies must be formulated that take into account the economic capacities of the country and its social needs.”

 In addition, she stressed that the Subcommittee on Labour and Social Policies of Antioquia is an example of good practices in the field of social dialogue, as it has an early warning system that allows the resolution of conflicts between workers and employers, preventing them from reaching administrative processes.

On the other hand, Isis Adrea Muñoz, Deputy Minister of Labour Relations and Inspection of the Ministry of Labour, stressed that the presence of public entities in the social dialogue is a guarantee of impartiality. In addition, he pointed out that:

The Ministry of Labour participates in social dialogue in two ways: the first, through the functions of inspection, surveillance and control (Law 1610, 2013), and the second through social dialogue between communities, companies, local authorities, unions and associations within the framework of the linkage of local labour.”

Isis Adrea Muñoz added that the variables of success in the social dialogue are, first, trust between the actors, followed by having clear representativeness in the framework of the negotiations and, finally, processing the needs and requests in an immediate scenario, without letting the conflict escalate.

Isis Adrea Muñoz

From Guías Colombia it was evidenced that social dialogue and cooperation in the workplace are fundamental mechanisms, not only to build a good relationship between the parties, but also to establish relationships of trust, respect human rights and move towards the just transition.

This collaboration is a good example of the third pillar of the Swedish Workplace Programme – Global learning and sharing. The organizations worked together and selected social dialogue and just transition as a theme. FIP involved companies, state entities and organizations, member of their Guías Colombia initiative in the discussion panel. Attendants and audience included Guias Colombia members, companies, guilds, and multilateral organizations.

The impacts of discussions and sharing:

  • These sessions promote gradually normalizing talking about social dialogue in private sector circles. Also, it starts combatting fears of having these discussions, and talking about union, employees, and employers’ relations in another light. 
  • The quality of the dialogue in the session and its relationship with companies’ environmental strategies, which are currently disconnected from social impact analysis and workplace cooperation. 
  • The opportunity to continue developing and generating discussions around just transition and social dialogue, which has very few developments and progress so far in Colombia. Also, the possibility to promote incidence and agenda setting with multiple actors. 

* Texts are extracts from SWP Coordinator’s protocol and from FIP website Dialogue at work: commitment to a just transition | FIP Companies (

FIP: The Ideas for Peace Foundation (FIP) is an independent think tank created in 1999 by a group of Colombian entrepreneurs. Its mission is to generate knowledge, propose initiatives, develop practices and accompany processes to contribute to the construction of a stable and lasting peace in Colombia.

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This executive summary presents the findings from the study “Workplace Cooperation: Finding Practical Solutions in the Colombian Context,” conducted by the Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP). The study evaluates the added value of the Swedish Workplace Programme (SWP) dialogue and cooperation model within the Colombian labor market.

Throughout 2022, FIP dedicated efforts to thoroughly understand the SWP model, including its concept, foundations, implementation process, and contributions to the labor market. In 2023, FIP documented the experiences of three companies—SKF Latin Trade, Securitas, and Epiroc—that implemented the SWP model in practice. The study also included face-to-face workshops to gather feedback from various stakeholders including civil society, businesses, government, academia, and international cooperation. The findings suggest that the SWP model has the potential to strengthen labor relations, contribute to decent work, and resolve workplace conflicts in Colombia.

The case studies highlight the importance of collaboration between employers and workers to promote decent work and sustainable development in Colombia. They demonstrate that social dialogue facilitates worker participation in labor decision-making, enhances their representativeness, and promotes cooperation between employers and employees, thus improving labor relations and contributing to the well-being of both employees and companies.

The SWP model is particularly noted for improving workplace relationships and commitment to jointly finding solutions to challenges faced by workers and the company. It empowers workers, enhances leadership, and helps integrate business policies into daily practices, reducing the initial disconnect between management objectives and the day-to-day realities of workers. The study also highlights the model’s capacity to manage conflicts constructively, transforming the perception of conflict as an opportunity for improvement. Structured dialogues deepen understanding of the underlying causes of conflicts, fostering empathy and facilitating effective resolution. This promotes a culture of collaboration and a democratic approach to decision-making, building trust.

Additionally, the model is recognized for enabling workers to make decisions, identify challenges, and propose solutions that impact their well-being, and bridging gender gaps in the workplace. Its inclusive approach adapts to the unique needs and characteristics of each company, promoting a stronger and more diverse organizational culture. It also drives good work performance and productivity by involving workers in problem identification and resolution, as well as in implementing improvements and efficiently identifying ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) risks for companies.

The document identifies the SWP model’s added value in empowering direct interaction among labor stakeholders in Colombia, overcoming historical or cultural reservations, and contributing to the development of stronger labor relations and improved workplace environments in the country.

Challenges and opportunities of the model are also discussed. The study points out the importance of addressing value chain risks, particularly in a global context where corporate clients demand decent work processes and due diligence. It emphasizes the need to integrate SMEs into this process and use anchor companies as drivers of social dialogue throughout the value chain. The role of the state in social dialogue and the importance of highlighting the benefits of the model for adoption across various business sectors are discussed.

The opportunities of the model include raising awareness of human rights in the workplace in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP), to strengthen due diligence, manage risks, promote long-term sustainability, and improve organizational culture. The document also underscores the importance of involving workers in change processes, leveraging their insights for continuous improvement of processes, and fostering innovation opportunities. Lastly, it suggests replicating the model in value chains to address work environment risks and gender biases, involving suppliers and contractors, and integrating the model into corporate policies to strengthen existing programs and transform organizational culture towards resource efficiency and effective participation of employers and workers.