Industrial Relations Essay Sample

Industrial Relations Pages
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Workplace “has one source of authority and one source of loyalty” (Fox 1996: p. 3)

– Dunlop (1958) argues that in a unitary theory, work organizations are integrated institutions with workers and management working in harmony.

– Thus no conflict thesis is a dubious integration. It thrives on assumptions that all workers identify not only with the aims of the enterprise but also with the operating methods (Seifert 1992).

– It is a theory that provides shelter to management. To the management, the assumption of single authority in the workplace enables them (management) supremacy, to be seen as being legitimate. The organized or unorganized conflict generated by the workers is seen as lacking legitimacy. The facts of these views are integrated in both the historical, legal, ideological and economic arguments about the right to manage.

– In this regard, workers are treated as a primary responsibility of the management. The assumption of instructions and orders flowing from the top, while a loyal workforce just obey (Fox 1974) are the basis for the managerial unilateral job regulations.

– Emphasis in individuals who enter into a “free” contract of employment is a key characteristic of unitarism. The same can be said for Trade Unions in organizations.

– TUs are views as outsiders intruding in disruptive consequences into an otherwise naturally close, smooth and unified workplace. – The assumption is that, the TU is concerned with agitation that promotes bad feeling. As a result, the union is seen as raising unreal grievances, that are a figment of imagination leading to confusion and fiction as a consequence, this impinges on management which otherwise is assumed to hold and save the interests of everyone, more so the workers.

– (IBID) In any case when differences occur, communication becomes a victim, as assumptions suggest that things can get better when in the finality, the message “reaches home”. The HRM debate blends well with this theory as the author contains that it (HRM) is the restoration of the ‘right to manage’, which is always sought in a subtle way. This is evidenced by the advancement of notion like ‘teams’ but at the same time individual performance rewards being provided. This reflects a classical that inherent contradiction in HRM, between individualism and teamwork. (Legge 1989) By implication, workers cannot question the authority of management. It is a strong “propaganda” that purports the non existence of “two sides” the “them and us”.

To proponents of Unitarism, this is an ideal “distribution” one sided though, of power within the workplace, a worker is treated like a cost to be minimized, the worker is also treated like a machine which could be used while productive and scrapped when non-functioning.


– Built around the notions of concessions and compromise between competing groups, pluralists argued that Industrial Relations are a more complicated matter, requiring the art of balancing. For the pluralists, apologists, the workplace is seen as a coalition of individuals and groups. These have “their own aspirations and perceptions which they naturally see as valued and which e.g. seek to express in action”. Ross as quoted by Fox 1974: 260) – The argument goes that from organization of competing interests will develop a stable “negotiated order” since negotiation is a deliberate process attempting to reach a jointly acceptable settlement (Walton & Mckasse : 1965).

– After all, the Webbs had noted that it was not as naively could be imagined by old fashioned capitalist in demanding the right to manage in his own way (1902 P822). To this end, Fox reckons that the best chance for management to control lies in their being ready to share that control in the group they are seeking to manage.

– The pluralists argue that the search for immediate improvements led workers into farming unions (Flanders 1968).

– TUs are therefore organized institutions that enable conflict resolution between management and workers through collective bargaining (Fox 1974) since with this theory collective bargaining is the bedrock exposing collective values and norms. Collective bargaining, Flanders notes, “is a method of settling the terms and conditions of employment of employees”.

– In precise terms, it is joined job regulation, hence the need for institutions that operate on an urgent principal setting. Management representing the employer meets, negotiate under a give and take environment and reach agreements with TU representing the workers. Contrary to submissions that CB offers an employer with a cheaper means of dealing wit a militant workforce. Hocks was emphatic and instead emphasized the importance of CB within the context of control, that “CB is not an instrument of peace primarily, it is a step in the process of control (1921 P278).

– Workers by coming together, thus, develop a mechanism by which a union may share managerial authority in the workplace. In accepting TU legitimacy, pluralist view them (as legitimate challenges to managerial rule acceptance by workers). In a way, therefore unions are institutions of conflict resolution for as long as the freedom of association is exercised within the parameters of law.

– Pluralists are clear that TUs are just another manifestation, characteristic of the basic values of competitive pressure groups, tenets of Western model of democracy (Fox 1974).

– Clark Ken notes that this can only be possible when there is relief in a philosophy of “mutual survival” (1951 P12).

– In line with this argument Bake had earlier defined this as the recognition by both parties of the mutual dependence upon each other “agreeing to respect the survival needs of the other” (1946 P41). This way both parties would seem to adjust their differences using methods that create opportunities for the other than destroying. From this premise, TU therefore seek to reform and not to transform and abolish the wage labour system.

– Flanders (1968) highlighted it as the bargaining with the society. It is for this reason that valid criticism stems from the Marxist perspective, by questioning the motivation by management to concert to the watering down of its competence. If it is not that the pluralist theory as a managerial theory too, only confirms and further entrenches the subordinate employment relationship, where workers are exploited. Those who hold unitarist view, subject pluralism to criticism on the basis that pluralism enable workers to encroach into the realm of management prerogative. Accepting such criticism however vindicates and illuminates the strength of pluralism, since it enables workers to place limits and constraints on management control.


-While the Marxist theory is a generic theory of society and social changes, it nevertheless remains a powerful framework of social enquiry into the power relationships in a capitalist society. The starting point in this theory is that Capitalists are motivated by the generation of surplus profits with which to finance further accumulation of profit, and the source of profit is an exploited workforce which is less paid of which it is the one which produces. The security and efficiency in this case, is not an item of the agenda of capitalists.

– It follows then that workers resistance threatens the accumulation of capital. One could as “whether workers who provide services are said to be exploited, if they are, (of which they are) in what form do their resistance threatens capital accumulation? Despite appearing to be a complex scenario,
the fact that workers in public services also sell their labour power, subjects them to exploitation. The same skewed exchange as that obtained in the private sector takes place. After all, these services are the lubricants that oil up the accumulation of capital.

– The vulnerability of workers as individuals leads them to forming collective combinations and structures in order to protect their own class interests.

– Unlike what is obtained in both the Unitarist and Pluralist theories and Marxist Theory provides a powerful interpretation of reality. Reality that workplace conflict is not a coincidence, it is only a reflection of the class structure and struggle in society.

– The emergency of collective bargaining to regulate the inevitable social conflicts at work enables temporary gains for the workers. The gains however are more compensation for individual weakness. The gains do not alter the economic structure, neither are they an expansion of individual strength, they “actually” delay and perpetuate exploitation. According to Hyman (1971) this accommodation of inherent contradictions in a capitalist society only confirms the strength of capital.

– Within this theory, trade unions are viewed as the inevitable consequence or the capital exploitation of wage labour, challenging the property relations. They challenge all the prerogatives, which goes with the ownership of the means of production, not simply the exercise of control over labour processes industry (Allen 1971:40). However in questioning the delivery capacity of trade unions, the Marxist argument suggests that workers stand trapped by the ineffectual reform agenda of trade unions. In this way, workers stand to loose the initiative for the original revolutional impetus of seeking the crushing of the capitalist mode.

– Pluralists suggest the state as being neutral but from the Marxist point, the state is a tool for the ruling class. It facilitates the accumulation of capital (Hyman 1975) Milband (1973) as an employer; state is sandwitched in this complex web of dynamics as it plays the exploitation of workers in the society. So the establishment of National Health Services in 1948 has been a fundamental development as argued by Seifert (1992) that the health delivery system become embroided in the fundamental principle of equality and social ownership. This point could not be expanded despite the temptation, as the author had to battle with keeping to framework of this study. However, a partial return to the role of the state has been made later in dealing with the developments after the 1979 conservative party election with in so far as management control is concerned.

– By implication what is argued as good for the economy appear to suggest of workers interest as being “selfish and not good for the economy” (Hyman 1975:45). Accepting this argument can be as good as getting into one’s enemy. Not only is it followed an argument, but it is absurd and an insult to workers. – Government is by no means an island, if anything is a satellite of capitalist influence (in a capitalist society). The industrial relations platena in the public service therefore is one difficult one, given that at a high notch, the working class and the ruling class are in constant fights over the control and influence of the state as an institution.

– This section has pulled together elements on first

1)Unitarism, emphasizing on unilateral job regulation with the notion of managements right to manage.

2) Second, pluralism with a focus on joint job regulation between the trade unions and management.

3) Marxist frame, driven by the power relationship in the frontier of control concept reflecting balance of power in the workplace. This provides a modest and limited launch pad into management control paper.

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