Employee relations are one of human resources aspect which is mainly concerned with maintaining a cohesive relationship between the employer and the employee in workplace so as to have high morale and motivation amongst employees for satisfactory productivity in workplace. Discussions between the employer and the employee usually concentrate on issues of payment, work environment, disputes, grievances, health and safety, hours of work and production targets.
Human nature can be simple, yet very complex thus an understanding and appreciation of this is an important factor for effective employee relations in workplace. For this to be achieved there has to be well defined rules and regulations pertaining as to how employees are to perform their duties, address personal issues, bargaining procedures, handle and resolve conflicts etc. each country has its own laws pertaining employment but there are also international laws that stipulates how legal rights and restrictions on working force and their organizations.
The main objective of employee relations is to protect the interests, rights and privileges of the employees. This provides information relating to policies and procedures of performing duties and facilitates the resolution of problems and complains through investigation and mediation. There exist two main levels of communication where employees can air their views. Individual relationship allows employee to relate directly with the employer while collective relationship involves organizations or trade onions and the individual employer.
When a dispute arises in any workplace, conciliation, mediation and arbitration are used to resolve disputes depending on the nature of the dispute. Individual disputes usually involves the employee directly with the employer while collective disputes occurs when a common disillusionments among the employees arise and representatives of the employees in form of trade unions are used to air the grievances to the employer. Representatives are legalizes groups who are concerned with employees rights and advocates for fair recognition in workplace.
The common situation in most countries is that employment laws have been more effective in resolving individual disputes than collective disputes. This is evident since most of trade unions are finding it difficult to handle disputes in workplace especially in private sector where individual employment rights has expanded and there is change from bargaining based relation system towards more individualized and legalistic rights based system. Cases of strikes in workplaces have declined recently and individuals are pursuing employment grievances in the court.
There has been shift to more individualized forms of negotiation at organization level with decline of wider bargaining arrangements has weakened the capacity of trade unions to perform their role as a collective negotiators. Theories and Practices in Workplace Employment laws arose due to the needs of workers of better conditions and rights to organize so that their issues and grievances could be heard and resolved amicably. This led to formation of administrative body to address the legal rights and restrictions between the working people and the organizations.
They mediate relationship between employees, employer and the trade unions. There are laws which stipulate relationship between the trade unions and the employer and the relationship between the individuals and the employer. Collective employment laws are a tripartite relationship between the employer, employees and the trade unions for collective bargaining, provision of benefits and industrial action. Individual employment laws deals with people rights at work place. There are two theories relating to employment developed after Second World War namely:
Dunlop Theory: it was based on labour relations systems. He realized workers representations as part of factors contributing to economic growth with two key aspects of the society as whole i. e. the interests of employee sand value of social justice. Theory also realized that unions can succeed only if essentially contribute to good management. They have functioned by making deals which are in long term interests of management as well as employees; in part they force management to act in its own interests.
The employees’ responses are usually neglected and there is need for organizations to provide more security and more employee services. This would require policies of regulation and protection where employees are able to make more choices about jobs, personal development of skills and interests through sequences of jobs rather than letting single company to mould and shape an individual. Employees’ participation in defining the nature of work and decisions that affects it.
This needs rapid responses where companies have found that top-down control is far too slow and inward looking for today circumstances. There is more acceptance of diversity to open up new opportunities and also lower the power of entrenched resistors. This situation will require an effective system of representation to balance differing interests what is needed is a system to deal with decentralized, flexible management to integrate semi- professional and knowledgeable employees to generate full support.
Unitary and pluralism theories: For pluralist decision maker views an employee is a permanently external to the enterprise, as part of action situation while unitarist decision maker views an employee as internal to the enterprise, inherent part of the enterprise actor. The pluralist position implies that workers and the enterprise are in a position to make demands on each other to which is obliged to respond as long as these demands are in some kind of balance.
The relationship between workers and managers is founded on agreement about this balance and not on any agreement about the inherent rightness or effectiveness of the demands themselves. The unitarist position assumes that every member of the enterprise, workers and the managers is a willing participant in social action such as the enterprise is defined by a common set of aims and values central to which is the goal of achieving the greatest possible success for collective prosperity.
An enterprise established on the principles of moral superiority of craft work and on importance of a worker seeing a product through to completion thus unitarist approach implies that the employment relationship as the primary means of organizing enterprise involves the agreement that in the context of the enterprise, certain rights duties. For industrial approach, unitarism seems to offer two advantages. First is the prospect of an absolute maximization of effectiveness and second is the relationship which exists within the enterprise are of normative substance.
Workers and managers are able to look upon each other as fellows rather than opponents forced into an uneasy and purely alliance. In managerial unitarism, the employment relationship is not just legitimate but authoritative, employee accepts that the direction of a manager embody the most effective possible means of realising the aims and values of the enterprise as a whole and since manager subscribes to this basic normative consensus, then compliance with those directions is not just a legal but a moral duty. Thus managerial right to worker compliance arise from normative consensus professional and competence of the manager.
From pluralism, manager can be competent but consensus does not exist thus there is no automatic managerial right to worker compliance. The key to resolving the difference between unitarism and pluralism in employment relations is dialogue i. e. a discussive process by which a group of people attempts to reach consensus on both objective and normative aspects of the action situation. Well conducted dialogue will result in agreement on the aims, values and goals of the organization, division of labour which will best contribute the realization of goals. Pluralist collective bargaining is purely procedural and hence non-dialogical.
Managerial unitarism is also non dialogical because agreement to managerial strategies, plans and instructions of the enterprise is assumed rather than secured. Management is conceived as a technical matter. Thus an alternative dialogical and non- dialogical employment relations systems needs to be developed. Trade unions which are committed and enthusiastic about issues of the employees without curtailing the managerial rights to decide what they see as necessary reform in employer- employee’s relations. The workplace setup is based on adequate understanding of employer- employee relationship.
This requires the knowledge of relevant conditions on the intra-group level and also on the inter-group conditions that might tempt each group to take a certain type social orientation. The consequences of different combinations of justice and injustice for the individual are specified for the intensity of conflict between two parties. Individual disputes usually involves am employee and the employer regarding a personal issues which is be discussed between them while collective disputes affect the general interests of group of workers and deals with enforcement or interpretation of statutory regulation, collective bargaining agreement.