Using Social Dialogue to Advance the CRPD

During the Conference of States Parties, EDF, Public Services International, the International Labour Organisation, the International Disability Alliance and the European Economic and Social Committee held a side event on social dialogue and the rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The purpose of the event was to identify how Social Dialogue is, or could be, used to ensure the implementation of the CRPD. Objectives included to define the role and the scope of social dialogue in relation to the rights of persons with disabilities, to identify the key entry points and opportunities to promote the implementation of the CRPD using social dialogue, to identify the challenges that exist for governments, DPOs and Social Partners, and to provide recommendations on how to ensure that social dialogue becomes a vehicle for advancing the rights of persons with disabilities.

The side event took the form of a panel discussion with experts representing the International Labour Organisation, Public Services International, members of European Parliament, and Economic and Social Committee, and representatives of Disabled Persons’ Organisations. 

Panelists and the audience discussed social dialogue and collective bargaining, and how it is, or could be, used to promote equality for persons with disabilities at the international and regional level. Here is a list of some of the many ideas which emerged from the discussion.

Roundtable with speakers and participants

Why is social dialogue a crucial instrument?

The implementation of the U.N Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities cannot be successful within a system that socially and economically excludes persons with disabilities.  Thus the implementation of CRPD requires an inclusive labour system and decent work for persons with disabilities.

More than just a problem-solving tool, Social Dialogue is the appropriate instrument to transform the social and economic aspects of labour systems so as to provide decent work for persons with disabilities at local, regional and international level, as well as enterprises and sectors.

Social Dialogue is an organised process in order to identify common priorities, convergences and complementarities between workers, employers and governments on the ways towards decent work for all. For more and effective representation in Social Dialogue process, persons with disabilities are invited to join Unions, employers’ organisations and government.  Disabled Persons’ organisations are invited to build alliances with social partners in order to advance the implementation of the U.N Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The successful implementation of the Convention relies upon the transformation of the labour system to ensure equal access for All (including persons with disabilities) to employment and social protection as prescribed by international labour standards.


Sign Language interpreter and screen with real-time captioning during the session

Making Social dialogue process more inclusive

  • In all instances of negotiation and consultations, persons with disabilities should be directly included to defend persons with disabilities and families of persons with disabilities.
  • Collective bargaining is a fundamental right. It is included in the CRPD and ILO conventions,  and DPOs should use these references in order to influence and lobby social partners  for  collective bargaining with the representation of persons with disabilities by persons with disabilities.
  • Leaders of the disability movement should study social dialogue carefully and learn from trade unions and others social partners

Stronger cooperation between DPOs and social partners

  • DPOs need to work with the trade unions for stronger rights of workers with disabilities, and of parents of children with disabilities.
  • Structures should be established to create dialogue between trade unions, business, and civil society that includes DPOs (examples were given from the ILO Business and disability network and the European Economic and Social Committee)
  • Stronger links should be forged between DPOs and trade unions. Global trade unions need to make persons with disabilities more visible in their work and in their priorities. They should reach their members with disabilities at regional, national and local level.
  • DPOs need to learn how to approach employers and trade unions. They need to “learn the language” to influence ILO constituents.

Pressing issues

  • People with disabilities are especially exposed to violence in the workplace
  • Yet social dialogue on these issues does not include them. It is important to support transition from a protective work environment for persons with disabilities to the inclusive open labour market. European funds can be used for this important task
  • Employment services have to be adapted to better serve persons with disabilities
  •  Global disparity in access to decent work must be recognised and tackled.
  • More attention has to be paid to workers that acquire a disability during their working life (not necessarily at work). Important issues include access to health services, support, social protection?
  • Privatization of public services for persons with disabilities have an adverse impact on their access to these services, as well as their quality of life. Austerity measures have hit people with disabilities hard. We need to reverse this trend and ensure quality public services, to support access to decent work for persons with disabilities.

The lively debate confirmed the importance of this topic to the participants of the Conference of States Parties. As event organisers we came away with a commitment to continue to cooperate on this issue.

Further reading

European Economic an Social Committee - The full inclusion of persons with disabilities requires inclusive social dialogue

Trade Union Action on Decent Work for Persons with Disabilities

Expert Meeting on Trade Union Actions to Promote Decent Work for Persons with Disabilities

Spain: Impact of social dialogue among workers with disabilities


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