Social Policy

A Conservative case for Social Partnership?

I am delighted to have been asked to contribute for a second time to Gwydir, and since penning my thoughts on the importance of Remembrance Sunday last year, a lot has changed – most notably, being elected to the Welsh Parliament, writes Joel James MS.

My views on the institution have been well noted by the press and media, but I nonetheless see this as a great honour, and I am extremely grateful for the trust and support that the South Wales Central electorate and membership have placed in me. I not only look forward to delivering on the pledges that I have made, but I also look forward to working closely with my regional colleague Andrew RT Davies, as we hold the ruling Labour Welsh Government to account, and deliver for the people of Wales.

It would also be remiss of me if I didn’t take this opportunity to pay tribute and thank former South Wales Central regional member David Melding, who retired from the Senedd at this year’s elections. David has been of immense support to me over the years, and his intellectual rigor will be sorely missed by the Welsh Conservative Party. I hope that I will be able to live up to standard that he set, and I look forward to addressing my first shadow ministerial brief: that of Social Partnership.

It’s a brief that doesn’t automatically feel associated with the Conservative Party, but as the Party that first recognised the legitimacy of the trade unions and has a proud history of social reform, this could not be any further from the truth.

Though the concept of social partnership, which was developed in Austria after the Second World War, advocates the development of ‘institutionalised co-operation’ between workers, government, and businesses to optimise the combined impact that they have, it has nonetheless been used in many advanced socio-economic and political systems throughout the world, and the benefits, if implemented affectively, can be economically astounding.

Organisations that have implemented social partnership schemes and fair working practices have been shown to deliver long-term economic benefits, which has not only increased economic productivity, but has led to higher quality work, and produced a more innovative and motivated workforce.

In Wales, traditional social partnership arrangements within businesses have developed far more loosely, without any common framework or co-ordination. The challenge for us, and for us as the Conservative party, is to address this, and to come forward with our own proposals – this is given more urgency with the imminent arrival of the Welsh Government’s Social Partnership and Public Procurement bill later in the year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed significant challenges on public services, private and third sector organisations, and it has shown how we, as a nation, are reliant upon their smooth running to maintain our health, wealth and wellbeing. It is imperative that we not only raise awareness and challenge injustice, unfairness and inequality, but that we, as the Conservative Party, lead the way on this, as we have always done.


Joel James is the Member of the Senedd for South Wales Central and the Shadow Minister for Social Parternship.

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