Labour dispute prevention and resolution

Grievances and conflicts are an inevitable part of the employment relationship. The objective of public policy is to manage conflict and promote sound labour relations by creating a system for the effective prevention and settlement of labour disputes.Labour administrations typically establish labour dispute procedures in national legislation. A key objective of effective systems is to ensure that wherever possible, the parties to the dispute resolve it through a consensus-based process such as conciliation and mediation, before reverting to arbitration and/or adjudication through a tribunal or labour court.

Conciliation and mediation are procedures whereby a third party provides assistance to the parties in the course of negotiations, or when negotiations have reached an impasse, with a view to helping them to reach an agreement. While in many countries these terms are interchangeable, in some countries a distinction is made between them according to the degree of initiative taken by the third party.
Arbitration is a procedure whereby a third party (whether an individual arbitrator, a board of arbitrators or an arbitration court), not acting as a court of law, is empowered to take a decision which disposes of the dispute.
Specialised labour adjudication is a procedure whereby ordinary courts on special labour courts settle finally any disputes over rights and obligations.

ILO Program Overview

The ILO supports member States to strengthen machinery for labour disputes settlement, in line with international labour standards and in consultation with the social partners, by:
  • Establishing legal and regulatory frameworks;
  • Building effective dispute resolution systems and services within the labour administration and by independent statutory institutions and specialised labour courts;
  • Capacity building through specialised training focused on negotiation skills and conciliation / mediation skills, as well as on international labour standards;
  • Sharing knowledge and raising awareness in respect of the advantages of voluntary conciliation, mediation and arbitration mechanisms; and
  • Sharing experiences of labour court judges on issues of common interest and concern.

ILO Program Objectives

The objective of the program is to support the establishment or revitalization of voluntary, free-of-charge and expeditious mechanisms for labour disputes settlement to help employers and workers and their organizations resolve their disputes through conciliation and arbitration and where necessary provide recourse to specialised labour courts. To support these objectives, the ILO provides a range of services to governments, workers' and employers' organizations:

Technical advisory services

  • Assisting constituents with the drafting or reform of labour legislation that regulates the mechanisms and procedures of labour dispute settlement; and
  • Supporting the development of voluntary, effective and financially viable systems for the prevention and settlement of labour disputes through mediation, conciliation and arbitration; (see Guide on improving effectiveness of labour dispute systems).

Training and capacity building

Together with the International Training Centre of the ILO , providing training that can equip social partners and government officials with skills and knowledge of effective methods for preventing and resolving labour disputes.

Knowledge development

Research on effective labour dispute systems and processes:

International partnerships

In order to enhance our technical expertise and services in this field, we partner with a number of statutory dispute resolution agencies, notably: