You are on page 1of 9

Pe.Atkins3@GMail.

com

Employee Relations: Assignment One Industrial Relations and Employee Relations In modern society, the terms employee relations and industrial relations are correlated and used interchangeably by its relevant parties. Nonetheless, even though both terms are commonly interested in the relationships of employers and their workforce, they yet, comprise contrasting views and solutions on resolving issues and conflicts within the working environment. The terminology industrial relation has its roots from the industrial revolution in the mid 18th century. Industrial relation is most commonly defined as a field observing the relationship between management and workers, particularly groups of workers represented by a union. Industrial relations are basically the interactions between employers, employees and government, and the institutions and associations through which such interactions are mediated.

(http://www.industrialrelations.naukrihub.com, 2007) In specific, industrial relations generally employs methods of collective bargaining, trade unions and strikes to assert the workers requests and fight for their interest. In 1966, eminent English industrial sociologist Alan Fox conducted a paper on industrial sociology and industrial relations, identifying three main ideologies, recognizing that relationships between workforce and employers can either be unitarist, radical or pluralist. Initially, unitarist ideology assumes that all associates of a company have mutual goals and objectives which they are striving to commonly achieve. This ideology assumes that an organization only functions properly if all members share the same interests, goals and remain loyal to the management. Furthermore, unitarist ideology rejects unions as it believes that challenging and opposing the management leads to disruption of harmonious functioning, and hence, does not correspond with the ideological framework. Managers viewing employment relations from a unitarist perspective tend to control and direct the workforce, considering themselves the authority in the organization, commonly accepted
1

Pe.Atkins3@GMail.com

by all employees. Moreover, unitarist managers believe that in order for the organization to generate the maximum amount of output, it is essential for every employee to provide the greatest of their abilities and co-operate mutually towards a common goal, in accordance with the managements leadership. In modern business organizations, the majority of managers have adopted the unitarist ideology as it brings about a sense of equality and strengthens the organizational culture. Radical ideology, also referred to as Marxist ideology, on the other hand, conveys the belief that shareholders take advantage of employees who are dependent on their economic resources. Generally, in radical ideology, those in power exploit the workforce, instigating conflicts between the two divergent social layers and allowing little room for adjusting working preferences suiting the workforce. Militant trade unionism is required to defend worker interests, according to this viewpoint, but too often unions suffer incorporation and serve to reconcile workers to a set of economic relationships founded on exploitation. (http://www.Jrank.org, 2010) Last but not least, Fox claimed that pluralist ideology is a perspective that emphasizes the different interests of the members of an organization. It assumes that there are diverse goals and objectives that reflect the many (plural) interests present in all organizations. (http://www.Jrank.org, 2010) In other words, paradox to the unitarist view, it is assumed that corporations with pluralist perspectives incorporate diverse interest groups who have differing goals and objectives, in addition to contrasting ideas and opinions which eventually initiate reasonable conflicts that ought to be managed. Contradictory to unitarist ideology, pluralists generally tend to encourage employees to speak up and discuss any challenges or issues openly, in order to generate constructive feedback and solutions to any existing difficulties. In the book Sociology, Work and Industry by Tony J. Watson, it is written that from a pluralist perspective, trade unions and the mechanisms of collective bargaining are necessary for the managing of the conflicts of interest which exist between employers and employed and whose existence is nave and foolish to deny. (Watson, 2008, p.280) An important aspect of pluralist mentality is the reconciliation of interests. In order to determine how
2

Pe.Atkins3@GMail.com

interest between the workforce and the employers can be met, pluralists encourage formal agreements and the presence of trade unions in order to satisfy both parties. Even though industrial relation was commonly accepted during the industrial revolution, critics believe that the term does not suit modern working standards as it is often negatively annotated as viewing working behavior as male dominant, including blue-collar workers and having no variety or flexibility of work. Hence, throughout years of development in the study of industrial relations, the term has been modernized to current working practices and is presently referred to as employee relations. Similar to industrial relations, employee relations deals with relationships between employers and the workforce. Nonetheless, it specifically aims to strengthen the relationships between management and labor, rather than initiating disputes by collective bargaining, strikes and trade unions. In modern society, the use of industrial relations has declined to a great extent as trade unions are gradually diminishing. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, from a peak of some 12 million plus, union membership has fallen to around 7 million today. Between 1980 and 2000, the coverage of collective agreements contracted from over three-quarters to under a third of the employed workforce. At the same time, the range of issues over which bargaining took place decreased massively. (http://www.Cipd.co.uk, 2009) Years ago, industrial relations generally concerned blue collar workers operating in industrial sectors such as manufacturing, refining and constructing. However, with the tremendous increase of service industries throughout the past few years, employee relations, at present, targets white collar workers aiming to improve working conditions in non-industrial employment sectors dealing with goods, services and their distribution. Thus, suiting the present working conditions, the term industrial relations has been altered to employee relations as personnel is modernly referred to as employees rather than workers. Employee relation is an important aspect in modern working environments as employment dominates the majority of human population and common interests between

Pe.Atkins3@GMail.com

management and workforce can never prevail when forced into action. Thus, employee relation is significant to resolve conflicts, foster organizational and professional development, manage diversity, and create a suitable work-life balance for employees. Although modern employee relations is mainly shaped by informal agreements and emphasis of employee relations continues to shift from 'collective' institutions, such as trade unions and collective bargaining, to the relationship with individual employees, (http://www.cipd.co.uk, 2009) trade unions are nonetheless existent in modern society and to a some extent, contribute to effective employee relations. A trade union, also referred to as a labor union, is generally defined as an association of employees formed to improve their incomes and working conditions by collective bargaining with the employer or employer organizations. (http://www.thefreedictionary.com) Generally trade unions can be categorized into horizontal and vertical unions. Horizontal or craft unions involve all members of a union sharing a common skill such as shoemakers, electricians, plumbers etc., whilst Vertical unions, are composed from employees of the same industry, for instance automotive industry, food & beverage industry, etc. The role of trade unions mainly includes negotiating over formal work agreements, discussing employees challenges, issues or concerns with employers or work conditions, supporting and motivating its members as well as providing suitable advice to unsatisfied members. Modern trade unions generally tend to progress away from dealing with concerns such as pay and move towards achieving its members interests and pursuing their rights. Labor unions generally focus on gathering a large entity of workers and eventually pursuing their interests by implementing techniques such as collective bargaining, industrial action and political activity. Whilst collective bargaining includes negotiating in a group over wages and working conditions, industrial action refers to unions organizing strikes to protest against unfavorable managerial judgments. In addition, political activity involves unions lobbying for the enforcement of legislation in the favor of their members interests. Although modern day unions face challenges such as decline in membership and resources
4

Pe.Atkins3@GMail.com

for carrying out effective procedures, increased managerial attack on unions roles in addition to augmented legal boundaries on its actions, they are nonetheless trying to sustain by shifting their focus on developing relations between the managers and workers rather than engaging in collective disputes. However, future trends for trade unions indicate that they are becoming redundant as more organizations offer union-free alternatives such as union substitution policies and HRM practices which offer employment packages with highly competitive pay systems, sufficient training for developing skills and focus on providing suitable employment conditions and more flexibility. Generally, although trade unions are weakening in influence compared to previous years, they nevertheless offer beneficial support in various countries by strengthening democratic processes and assisting in effectively resolving disputes and finding agreements between workforce and employer.

Collective Disputes In case the process of negotiation between employers and workforce fails and agreements cannot be met to suit both parties, one party can choose to take action against the other, resulting in formal collective disputes. In business terms, a conflict can generally be defined as a friction or opposition resulting from actual or perceived differences or incompatibilities.

(http://www.businessdictionary.com) Due to the increasingly competitive modern business environment, conflicts arising at workplaces have become progressively more noticeable. Even though modern managers believe that conflicts are to some extent beneficial in present working environments, in some cases clashes of interest can eventually lead to collective oppositions against one entity. Collective disputes involve a group of employees, formally gathering to take action against another party in favor of their interest, whilst Individual disputes involve one employee and its management, yet, can swiftly transform to collective disagreements if it is in the interest of more
5

Pe.Atkins3@GMail.com

individuals. Causes for collective disputes may arise from disagreements over pay, work conditions, redundancies, etc. The most common form of collective dispute involves strikes. A strike is defined as a work stoppage undertaken in support of a bargaining position or in protest of some aspect of a previous agreement or proposed agreement between labor and management. (http://www.investorwords.com) Strikes are typically a collective approach of expressing discontent over certain aspects in labor and intend to harm the opposing party by refusing work and, hence, decreasing corporate productivity until the matter is resolved. Strikes might be official or unofficial; whilst official strikes are supported by union representatives; unofficial strikes are not formally recognized and are conducted by a minor group of workers. A further type of dispute is the non-strike agreement. In this case employers tend to reach a consensus with trade unions or employee representatives by establishing a formal arrangement in favor of the trade union to prevent workers from initiating a strike. Non-strike agreements generally try to avoid strikes and believe that a strike should be the last means of achieving collective interest. As strikes can be harmful to organizations and highly decrease productivity, companies usually tend to avoid these by agreeing to improve conditions, in order to avert employees from taking industrial action. Although non-strike agreements are relatively rare at present, the trend of these agreements is gradually increasing. If the employer and the trade union fail to reach a consensus after attempting all available means of resolving disputes, the trade union must conduct an industrial action ballot to legitimize any legal actions taken against the employer. Hence, all members of the trade union are obliged to vote whether they believe industrial action is necessary or not. For a ballot to take place, a professional examiner ought to be appointed to observe the objectivity and credibility of the results. If the majority of members vote for industrial action against an entity, all legal requirements are met and the action can be pursued.

Pe.Atkins3@GMail.com

Further, more uncommon, forms of collective disputes include lockouts and lock-ins. A lockout is generally referred to as industrial action during which an employer withholds work, and denies employees access to the place of work. In effect, it is a strike by the management to compel a settlement to a labor dispute on terms favorable to the employer.

(http://www.businessdictionary.com) Lockouts are generally initiated by employers who aim to pressure trade unions and exclude employees from labor, which hinder other, non-striking workers from completing their tasks successfully. Lock-in, on the other hand, is illegal in most countries and involves prohibiting workforce from leaving the workplace. It was most recently reported that due to arising disputes at the workplace, in France, 3Ms manager got locked in his office by his employees for a longer period of time, which were aiming to, thereby, pursue their interests. Nonetheless, in order to successfully resolve conflict and avoid further disagreements between employers and trade unions, dispute procedures ought to be taken in consideration. Dispute procedures are a type of guideline which disputing parties ought to follow in order to successfully resolve disagreements without further conflicts. Non-profit organizations such as the Employers Association, a body that regulates relations between employers and employees, represents members' views on public policy issues affecting their business to national and international policy-makers, and supplies support and advice (http://www.dictionary.bnet.com), generally regulate terms of disputes and provide resolutions by undertaking so-called grievance procedures. In this case, when a formal complaint is submitted by an employee, the EA invites the harmed employee to a grievance meeting where further actions are discussed. Although in modern organizations employers associations provide beneficial advice and solutions to corporate disagreements and are to a great extent, effective in settling disputes, due to the increasing popularity of collective bargaining in larger companies, these organizations have mostly been successful with smaller organizations, unable to resolve disputes internally. Further types of dispute resolution include third party involvements, which engage in

Pe.Atkins3@GMail.com

objectively implementing processes of resolution such as conciliation, meditation and arbitration. Conciliation is the most frequent type of dispute resolution and involves a third party attending a dispute in order to assist in reaching a common agreement. Conciliation is beneficial to both parties and highly effective in dispute resolutions, as the parties are objectively guided throughout a logical discussion, and are nonetheless in control of the issues outcome and settlement. Mediation, on the other hand, includes the third party providing suitable proposals for the disputing parties to consider. Although mediation is similar to conciliation, it is not as effective and rarely implemented as, if conciliation does not result to agreement, the parties are better of directly heading to arbitration. Last but not least, arbitration is a legal technique for the resolution of disputes outside the courts, wherein the parties to a dispute refer it to one or more persons (the "arbitrators", "arbiters" or "arbitral tribunal"), by whose decision (the "award") they agree to be bound. (http://www.HG.org) As a means of eventually resolving an issue, in case of arbitration, both parties agree to accept the arbitrators ultimate solution to the conflict and, thereby, end existing disputes. Even though

arbitration is a good method of resolving an issue in a timely-matter avoiding long worthless discussions, it may not be beneficial to the parties as they have no control over the situation or outcome. In general, depending on intensity and outbreak of the issue, organizations can nowadays effectively implement various types of dispute procedures which best suit their current circumstances.

References

Pe.Atkins3@GMail.com

Introduction To Industrial Relations, 2007, [Online], Available: http://industrialrelations.naukrihub.com/introduction.html. [07 April, 2010] Unitarism: frame of reference, 2010, [Online], Available: http://www.jrank.org/business/pages/617/frame-reference.html. . [09 April, 2010] Pluralism: frame of reference, 2010 [Online], Available: http://www.jrank.org/business/pages/617/frame-reference.html. . [09 April, 2010] Watson, T (2008). Sociology, Work and Industry. 5th ed. Oxon: Routledge. p.280-281. Employee Relations: An Overview, 2009, [Online], Available: http://www.cipd.co.uk/subjects/empreltns/general/emprelsovr.htm. [09 April, 2010] Definition: trade union, n.d, [Online], Available: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Trade+unions. [09 April, 2010] Definition: Conflict, n.d [Online], Available: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/conflict.html [09 April, 2010] Definition: strike, n.d, [Online], Available: http://www.investorwords.com/5807/strike.html. [09 April, 2010] Definition: lockout, n.d, [Online], Available: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/lockout.html. [09 April, 2010] Arbitration, n.d, [Online], Available: http://www.hg.org/arbitration-definition.html. [09 April, 2010]