It is not a weakness for a company to have a strong union

It is not a weakness for a company to have a strong union

Jos van Erp Deputy Director View profile

Social dialogue is seen as the basis for constructive dialogue between employers and employees. DECP and CNV Internationaal both embrace this idea. So are their partners in Ivory Coast, CGECI and DIGNITE. A joint workshop to share and put into practice the principles of ILO Convention 87, the guidelines of the OECD and in particular Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was held on December 8 and 9 in Abidjan.

Ivory Coast has remained since the 1970s the largest producer of cocoa, but also one of the largest coffee producers. It is now the leading producer of cashew nuts with more than 800,000 tonnes in 2020. The country has several production and processing units established. The different value chains are driven by companies of various sizes ranging from Small and Medium Enterprises to multinationals.

Union activity is marked by union pluralism at the heart of which we find the CISL* DIGNITE, the new key partner of CNV Internationaal in Côte d'Ivoire. In 2020, DECP and CNV Internationaal organised a sub-regional workshop in Côte d'Ivoire on negotiation techniques with the participation of DIGNITE and CGECI. Ivorian legislation creates a favourable space for the initiation and development of trade union activity. Ivory Coast, for example, ratified the C87 upon gaining independence. However, in practice it appears that many provisions are not yet respected. They therefore require specific attention from employers' organisations and trade unions. After all, economic growth starts with mature industrial relations based on mutual respect.

*Confédération Ivoirienne des Syndicats Libres 


In this context, with the support of CNV Internationaal, DIGNITE has started building the capacities of its structures to enable them to effectively fulfil their trade union mission. Thus, capacity building has already taken into account; the outlines of social dialogue, union management and representation and mastery of tools for analysing national policies in relation to the employability of young people.

In addition, the Ivorian employers’ organisation CGECI benefits from the support of the Dutch employers’ representation DECP, in particular relating to the strengthening of social dialogue.

The joint training workshop of 8 and 9 December was intended to strengthen the capacities of trade union leaders and employers in Côte d'Ivoire in relation to the ILO standards on freedom of association (ILO C87), the OECD Guidelines and United Nations CSR standards.

About 30 people gathered on Wednesday December 8 in Abidjan. 20 staff members and members of DIGNITE and 10 through CGECI, including a representative of the Dutch dairy company FrieslandCampina. Mrs Nicole Mathot, region manager for the sub-Sahara of CNV Internationaal, and Jos van Erp, region manager for DECP, took part digitally, as did some other people from the region who could not be on site.


                    M. Edouard Ladouyou                                                                              Mrs Nicole Mathot

                    Moderator and inspirator                                                                        CNV Internationaal and DECP cooperate in West Africa

The participants looked forward to the presentations and discussions with Mr Edouard Ladouyou. Mr Ladouyou is the Head of Human Capital and Industrial Relations Department of CGECI and has a trade union history. He is therefore excellently able to bring the interests of both parties together and to convince participants of the usefulness of this and the way in which different interests can be united to a win-win situation.

During his talks he explained the heart of what this workshop was all about: The expression ‘Social Dialogue’ comes from two Latin words namely ‘dia’ and ‘logos’. ‘Dia’ means distance and ‘logos’ means speech. Dialogue is therefore the word ‘logos’ thanks to which everyone crosses the distance ‘dia’ that separates them from the other.

During the workshop the principles of the OECD and their implications where examined with a view to integrating them as an axis for the development of trade union strategies for the defence of human rights in companies in Côte d'Ivoire. The United Nations directives on Corporate Social Responsibility where examined and taken into account in the defence of respect for human rights and labour rights by DIGNITE in the value chains in Côte d'Ivoire.

The participants have been working in mixed groups to define opportunities, challenges and recommendations. A lot has been said in detail but the main conclusions are that employers should respect the C87 conventions as well as the OECD guidelines and turn them into practice. Of course, child labour should be abandoned, more gender equality should be realised and policy should focus on creating sustainable jobs. At the other hand, employers that threat their employees well benefit from higher productivity, better quality and highly involved personal. This can be reached by creating a safe and healthy working environment, offering decent jobs and opportunities for lifelong learning and involving the government. Continuous development of awareness can be achieved by employers' organisations and trade unions. There is also - still - a role for politicians to play.

As a concrete follow-up, GGECI and DIGNITE will look for issues that they will jointly resolve through social dialogue. Perhaps a choice can be made for a start within specific sectors such as the cashew nuts or shea butter. The management of DIGNITE and CGECI as well as the participants and -last but not least M. Edouard Ladouyou, CNV Internationaal and DECP- can look back on a very successful workshop. A powerful start has been made to take effective steps to contribute, through social dialogue, to a building block for the sustainable social and economic development of Ivory Coast. Employees deserve that, employers deserve that and the country deserves that!