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Prudent maintenance of the relationships with the employees is very crucial for the success of the organizations through improved and effective performance of the employees. Conflicts are bound to occur at workplace or in organizations owing to conflicting interest of two or more parties or individuals such as conflicts between two departments or between the interests of stakeholders. Conflict is a situation where the two opposing parties are faced with a situation of different interest or stakes in a decision making situation. Thus the study basically aims to discuss the role of trade unions, collective bargaining and negotiations in an organization and the strategies used by the organization in order to deal with such situations. Thus the modern organizations are placing focus on maintain positive relationships with their employees along with trade unions participations which are inclusive aspects of industrial democracy. Also a light is thrown on the role of EU in order to ensure the democracy and employee involvement in the decision making process in the organizations at UK.
In an organization, there are various stakeholders like customers, employees, management, investors, suppliers, etc and there are conflicts amongst the interests of the various stakeholders. According to the unitary frame of reference, all the staff, management and all other involved in the organization work united towards common goals and targets and thus the harmony prevails in the system. Thus the involvement of the employer is whole and sole in deciding authority and leadership situation and strategies in dealing with the conflict situation is decided by the employer only and the employee loyalty is the main consideration under the unitary framework. Here the managers are loyal to the top management and they perceive their role as having authority towards the workforce performance. In the unitary framework, the managers or leaders are loyal to the top management and the lower levels of employee are dictated by the leaders who have focused authority in the organization. In pluralistic framework, the various stakeholders are concerned in the organization and the employee participation is considered in the areas like authority and also in case of the conflict situation and the leadership is allowed at various levels of the organization though it may be important to strike a balance between the interests of the various stakeholders in the organization. Thus the ability and leadership occur in various groups formed in the organization and the members of the groups are committed towards the objectives of the group as declared by the leaders (Edrose, 2008).
The way the trade unions are participating in the employee relations had changed drastically from the past days and the modern trade unions placed due emphasis on the changes and development of the behaviors and attitudes of the members or the employees in order to make them perform well towards the organizational objectives. Thus the modern day trade unions arrange for training of its members and enrich the knowledge of the members about the employment laws and legislations apart from making the employees more committed and accountable for their work in the organization. Also the trade unions try to improve the participation of the members and safeguarding their interest apart from representing the concerns of the society. Trade unions function in providing cohesion or affinity in its members by providing them safe and dignified working conditions along with proper compensations or salaries as in the old days. But the modern trade unions are partners in the development of the economic systems while they can raise voice in order to improve the policies in society and economy towards employment relations. They have important role in promoting basic human rights or civil rights of employees and promote the democracy in industrial relations where employees are empowered (Bilodeau, 2015). Also through International Labor Organization, the trade unions influence the employment relations at global level by placing labor standards which help in prohibition of child and forced labor and promote the right for collective bargaining.
Apart from the employer and the employee, the main parties to the employee relations include trade unions and associations who act on behalf of them and the role of the government agencies and institutions like European Union in employment relationship management.
Employer?: the manager is crucial in providing good working environment and challenging work to the employees while making sure of the training, development and all other needs of the employee including compensation and rewards. Thus the manager or supervisor must act as role model and work towards improving employee involvement within the organization through use of open communications. Thus the role of employer or mangers is crucial in avoiding conflicts and taking care of the employees in every aspect of the work in the organization (Banfield et al, 2008).
Trade unions: ?they are involved in collective bargaining on behalf of the employees in order to stop their exploitation from conditions where employer has the right to decide work and payments alone as per Nation Labor Relations Act which entitles employees to chose their representatives in labor union. Also providing for welfare of employees and to make a check against any illegal or unfair practice carried out by the employer is a duty of trade unions. Also they can have a voice on the laws impacting employment relationships like Social Security act, Health and Safety at Work Act, etc (Matheison et al, 2015).
Government Agencies: in accomplishing the national social and economic goals various government institutions participate in the employment relationships as the main role of these agencies include promotion of the organizational performance or contribution to the GDP and overall economy and thus to attain price stability, currency exchange rates, reduce unemployment and maintain good BOP(Balance Of Payments).
Conflicts at workplace are common but they can be positive as it improves the participation of the employee in contributing to the overall organizational performance and may be due to issues over wages, work conditions, policies of the management, etc. The various types of conflicts in the organizational setting can be divided as: (a) Structural conflict between the interest of various departments in an organization in a management decision making situation (b) strategic which is put deliberately by manager in order to attain some goals (c) interpersonal conflicts takes place between the various employees in an organization and (d) intrapersonal are conflicts with in an individual which affect the performance of the individual and organization. Various strategies used by the organization in dealing with conflict situations include:
Avoidance is the situation where the organizations through use of structures and procedures in the organizations make arrangements for avoiding the situations of conflicts amongst various departments and individuals.
Compromise is where none of the parties get what they wanted or were interested in but a median decision is reached between the two different interests.
Forcing is where the higher management authority intervenes in the decision making and parties at conflict are bound to accept it.
Resolution of conflict situation is done through intervention of a third impartial party who takes time in listening to both the parties, analyzing the situation and reaches a way where both the parties at conflict agree to be in best contribution of decision to organizational performance through mutually agreed way thus this method yields the best results for the organizations and thus the most desired and effective method (Afzalur, 2010).
The conflict resolution involves following process in case of an organization Unison where the main aim of organization is to protect the rights of the employee in various sectors of the economy including private sector. Thus whenever there is a conflict situation, the company ensures that the rights of the employees as well as employers are maintained in the bargaining or negotiation. Different industries have different trade unions but the main aim is protection of bargaining power and rights of the parties thus various trade unions are united by common goals. Collective bargaining is one of the most important aspects of conflict resolution between the employee groups and the management. The company ensures free and open communication between the employees and the management in order to allow proper conflict resolution free from fear of losing job or one’s position or partiality of judgment. Also the organization must follow the laws applicable to employment and guard against any kind of discrimination based on race, caste, sex, disability, etc and provide equal opportunities to all with equitable pays for same type of work in order to avoid the conflicts in the organization (Morell et al, 2011). On occurrence of conflict, Unison uses Mediation strategy or involves third party in order to resolve conflict between two parties as follows:
Generally the organizations use informal procedures like a communication in order to resolve interpersonal or intrapersonal kind of conflicts however when the conflict is big in terms of the divergence in the interest of the two parties or in terms of affect on the overall organization, formal procedures are mandatory. Formal procedures are very effective when the conflict is big and the issue is quite sensitive. Unison, UK which is a collective representation of different trade unions operational at UK uses collective participation in resolving conflict through negotiations between employers or unions with the organization. In case of Unison, the use of collective bargaining has been done to resolve conflicts regarding benefits or interests of the parties and contradiction between the principles and procedures used by trade unions and members or organizations. It involves the understanding of the situation and estimation of the costs of the conflicts to the affected parties or the organization as the case may be. It can be a harmful procedure as all the employees may not be satisfied with the process and decisions made during the collective conflict resolution and thus they may outperform the whole effort. Also the organization may be not very much satisfies by the collective conflict resolution and thus the whole economy may set to lose due to affected performances (Philip et al, 2007).
As declared by the labor standards in the International Labor Organization convention in 1998, the employees have the right to chose labor unions and allow them to participate in collective bargaining and negotiation with the employers. Collective bargaining includes the participation of trade unions on behalf of its members in order to bargain with the employer for better compensation, work conditions, etc (Agarwal, 2013). Trade unions ensure safe working conditions for the employee apart from ensuring sufficient compensations and protecting their interest at work. Thus the negotiation entails the trade unions right to provide equitable salaries to the employees and providing for sufficient amount of rewards and incentives as per their performance on the job. Thus the employee can chose their representatives or labor unions as per law in order to negotiate their interest in the organization which includes pays, safety at work, rewards, training and development, working conditions like hours at work, job rotations, shift working, flexibility, etc while the trade unions ensure the employers of dedicated, well performing and motivated employees well oriented towards organizational performance and goals. Thus the employment relationship is tri-party where the trade unions not only involve in negotiations on behalf of employee or motivate and train the employee towards performance but they also participate in settlement of conflict and employee grievances and avoidance of any unfair practice by the employer like differential behaviors to those participating in trade unions (Schiffres, 2004).
The negotiation strategy that is used by the two parties in reaching a solution to a conflict on wages, working conditions, etc may be of two types:
In the case of Unilever ltd, the company allows integrative strategy and thus full participation of its employees in the trade unions and other such associations and places the policy of no discrimination amongst the employees on the basis of their involvement with any of the associations or trade unions. Also the company creates a free and open communication environment where the employee feels at comfort to work and feel dedicated to his own area of responsibilities. Also the company takes good care of the rights and interest of the employees in the organization by providing good pays, rewards, incentives, training and development along with safe and healthy working conditions while making arrangement for any losses or injury to the workers at the workplace under its Industrial Relations Policy initiative. In this regard the company had been training its managers in the direction of the importance of the labor relations and had developed an e learning module for its line and all managerial levels in 2011 to ensure that the policy towards the industrial labor relations is implemented in all the countries and thus the whole company stands in one tone towards the betterment of industrial or labor relations. Thus there had been significant differences in the attitudes and behaviors of the managers towards the trade unions’ participation in the collective bargaining and negotiations on behalf of the employees and this e module had been successful somehow in generating respect and bargaining power of the employees and trade unions in the company. Unilever is dedicated to industrial democracy and thus participates in negotiations with trade unions freely and this has led to well performing and dedicated employee performance (Chen, 2015).
The practice of democracy in the employment relations includes the employer and the employees in the organization and involves both the employers and employees in the decision making process in the organization. Also it entails the distribution of power or authority to various levels of the organizations including the lower levels of employees. The European Union (EU) which is a representative organization of various countries on matters like trade, exchange, currency and employment and is constantly committed to improve the perception and followers of the industrial democracy in the member countries. A new concept of treating the employees as partners in the performance of the organization is gaining importance in all the member countries at EU which aims to involve the employees through profit sharing and providing them with due authority and power in order to make them more accountable. Thus EU is committed to improve the involvement and dedication of the employees through suggestion schemes, open communication, etc in the organization to improve the organizational performance and thus better contribution to the GDP of the economy of member countries. Also EU promotes the participation of the trade unions in the collective bargaining process with the organization as this is beneficial to the entire organization and the gross economy (Wilkinson, 2014).
Organizations are getting keen over encouraging the employee involvement with them in order to yield more high performing and motivated employees thus leading to good organizational performance.
Consultation is the process of gaining employee insight in to various matters or decision making process in the organization related to setting of goals or strategies. If the management feels the opinion of employee is good then it is applied in the organization.
Suggestion schemes and drop box facility is the process where the organization invites the suggestions from the employees on various process and decisions of the marketing management and in order to improve the organization performance.
Participation of a representative member of employee association or trade unions in the board of the company and involving in the board meeting is valuable in gaining employee participation in the organization (Keith et al, 2015).
Attitude Surveys are used in the organization asking the employees about what they feel about the organization, about their pays, about the working conditions provided by the employer, etc in order to gain insight over their attitude towards work through use of questionnaires or interviews and this helps to make improvements.
Quality circles are a group of people in the organization that help in solving the problems related to employees such as problems related to work, communication, etc and this helps the employee participation in the organization by improving their level of commitment and making them feel valued and taken care of (Whalen 2008).
It is very important for any organization to keep up the performance of the organization by investing time and money on maintenance of its most important assets that are the human resources. Thus maintaining good relations with the employees and improving their level of commitment towards the organization and feel responsible and motivated to perform as if working in their own organization and thus employee relations is a very important function of the Human Resources department in the organization. The organization may have a hard or a soft approach towards its human resources and relationship with employees in the hard approach is based on treating employees as economic inputs to yield end results while in soft approach the focus is on treating employees as assets in the organization and placing emphasis on developing good relationships with the employees (Richards, 2015). As seen in case of Unilever ltd, the HRM places focus on improving the level of involvement of employees in decision making, prompt handling of employee conflicts and grievances through special forums and respecting the dignity and freedom of the employees in participating in trade unions while providing them with equitable pays, safe working conditions, etc. Thus the HRM should allow fair treatment to employees on participating in trade unions and enter in to negotiations with representatives of employees or trade unions in matters regarding wages, working conditions or the like.
Modern trade unions have wider role as compared t o that in the past and now the involvement of trade unions in collective bargaining and negotiations with the organizations is all the more important. The organizations must allow the participation of its employees in trade unions and enter in to collective bargaining with their representatives. Trade unions not only fight or negotiate for the benefits of the employees but places focus on molding the attitudes and behaviors of the employees in performing towards the objectives of the organization and training the employees to perform better and thus improve the contributions of the organizations towards the economy. Also trade unions can raise their voice on matters related to economic and social policies and the changes required. Conflict can affect the overall performance of the organization and thus must be resolved through mutual consent of the two parties. The concept of industrial democracy is gaining importance and thus the modern organizations are involving the employees in the decision making in the organization. The role of EU is crucial in promoting the rights of the employees and promoting industrial democracy and involvement of employees in the member countries. Thus now more and more organizations are promoting the open communication with the trade unions and involving in collective bargaining with the employees in order to gain the level of commitment of the employees towards the organizational goals and overall performance. Various laws allow avoidance of unfair treatment with the employees on participation in trade unions or any such groups. Employee involvement is improved through use of suggestion schemes, drop box, appraisals and attitude surveys.
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