On a daily basis we see in the news escalated conflicts in organizations. Downsizing, layoffs and changes in working conditions often given rise to heated debates, and actions. Social dialogue turns into fights, unilateral decisions by organizations and actions by employees and unions, including strikes.
Strike of cleaning staff at Barcelona Airport, September 2017.
The EC promotes social dialogue and also promotes constructive interventions in case of conflict. EC member states offer different third party interventions and mediation services to solve these conflicts. The EC promotes mediation and other forms of non-judicial conflict resolution in organizations.
However, there is a lack of knowledge about
(a) the actual functioning of third party/ mediation services in collective conflicts;
(b) the conditions to promote the use of mediation;
(c) the antecedents of effective mediation interventions.
Specially for collective labor conflicts, the structuring of third party support and mediation services in itself are important elements of social dialogue. Partners feel the need to innovate social dialogue to meet the current needs of a changing labor system (Munduate et al, 2012; Euwema et al, 2015). One of the essential components in this innovation is providing support to social partners at organizational level, especially when negotiations are stuck, agreements cannot be reached, or rights are not respected, and conflict escalation might occur.
Different EC member states have different traditions in providing such mediation assistance. This might be referred to as facilitations, mediation or also arbitration. However, actual knowledge on how this functions and how to further develop these mechanisms, lacks.
Are the structures adequate, accessible, and acceptable to conflicting parties in collective organizational conflicts? How do the formal structures relate to the use of independent consultants offering facilitation and mediation services? What are limitations to the use of mediation, and how can ‘preventive mediation’ be used to de-escalate in an early stage conflicts within organizations between management and labor? These questions are at the heart of further development of social dialogue in Europe, and this study aims to compare the experiences in different member states, in a search for good practices, inspiring social partners and governments of member states to promote mediation, both as prevention and conflict intervention.