2020 has been an unprecedented year for employers' organisations. As the COVID-19 pandemic spread worldwide in the second quarter, DECP first focused on acute support for employers’ organisations. With financial support we have helped them to inform their (member)companies about the pandemic and to lobby governments for effective crisis policies.
When the dust settled somewhat, DECP started looking at its own strategy. In consultation with the Board and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, DECP has shifted its focus to the membership of employers' organisations as the greatest threat in the near future and social dialogue as the greatest opportunity.
As a kick-off for this updated strategy, DECP organised "Flash Summits" in late 2020 and early 2021. These online regional meetings were intended to share the strategy with partner organisations in five regions (West and East Africa, South and South-East Asia and Latin America) and to exchange ideas on how to implement it.
From the professional web studio in the Malietoren, DECP President Ingrid Thijssen welcomed the employers' organisations. She stressed that the pandemic is not only an enormous challenge for all of us. It is also an opportunity for employers' organisations to be visible and relevant to members. "I am sure that being there for your members in these most difficult times will strengthen your position in the long run", Ingrid Thijssen underlined.
DECP Director Peter Bongaerts gave a presentation on the updated strategy. He discussed the focus on membership and social dialogue in 2021 and 2022 and the permission that DECP has received to extend –a part from the traditional expert advice- some financial support for membership and social dialogue activities in the coming years. Peter also emphasized the new way of working. According to him, "blended working, a combination of face-to-face and online, will enable us to do our work even more effectively."
In the discussions with the partner organisations, led by the country managers, it became clear that the themes of membership and social dialogue have high priority. Although the direct effects of COVID-19 on membership vary from one employers’ organisation to another, vigilance is required because of the indirect effects on economies and therefore on businesses. Retention of members and attracting new ones are therefore important themes in the coming years.
Many employers' organisations have gained further experience in social dialogue during COVID-19 and also see constructive consultation with trade unions and stakeholders as an important step to meeting future challenges. The commitment from DECP to social dialogue in the coming years, both on a national and on a sectoral level, was therefore well received.
A number of organisations underlined the combination of a stronger role in social dialogue as an opportunity to make membership more attractive. This synergistic vision showed that DECP is on the right track for the years to come.
In the coming weeks, the harvest of the Flash Summits will be further discussed by the country managers and translated into individual bi-annual workplans. DECP is confident that this challenging post-COVID year will strengthen the position of its partner organisations.