Has the development of Human Resource Management practices replaced the need for trade unions

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Has the development of Human Resource Management practices replaced the need for trade unions

According to Phelan (2007, pp. 45-47), trade unions were the most powerful organizations after the industrial revolution. During the 19th and 20th century, management was largely mechanistic and the position of workers was not felt unless the force of the numbers was employed. As a result, the membership to the trade unions increased steadily to 1979 after which a sharp decline is evident. During the 20th century, Donna, Stephen and Roderick (2007, p. 832) report that over one third of all employees belonged to trade unions by 1979 before declining sharply o 13. % by year 2000. In their view, Gurpreet (2007, p. 85) and Hearnshaw (2007, p. 76) argue that the trade unions decline is an indication of the critical period that change must be embraced to create greater value of the production systems. According to Tove, Hammer and Bayazit (2009, pp. 405-406), the unions lacked the needed sensitivity to their members and held their views towards salaries and job security only.

Under this model, unions failed to recognize the fact that if employees were guaranteed what the unions provided, they would lack their value. From their view point, Coca-Stefaniak, Hallsworth and Bainbridge (2005, pp. 361-363) argue that trade unions’ mandates lacked clear definition and therefore kept overlapping between political delineations to employees protection. Consequently, many leaders used them to settle political scores and stepping stones to power. Indeed, Marlow (2006, p. 54) points an accusing finger to this vagueness in executing their mandates that employees sought to distance themselves.

A major question that arises at this point is what is indeed the future of the unions? Though many analysts appear to avoid answering the question directly, Pencavel (2003, p. 21) and Blanden and Machin (2003, pp. 121-122) suggest that the unions will indeed not fully die, but resilience of their roles will be evident when major problems occur. Comparison of human resources managements and trade unions Comparison of trade human resources and trade unions brings out the picture of two negating forces but geared towards achieving the same objectives.

To begin with, trade unions were run politically and therefore involved a very wide spectrum of employees they dealt with. As a result, Gill (2009, pp. 41-42) explains it was very hard to address the demands of the different members with ease. On the other hand, human resources management is a discipline defined by clear cut professional outline that have key objectives. Redman and Wilkinson (2009, p. 121) explain that apart from this clear objectivity, human resources managers have a narrower spectrum, for instance, one company or institution, which makes it easier to address concerns of their subjects.

The approach and consideration of trade unions as Marchington and Wilkinson (2005, p. 114) pointed out in their study, was based on a competitive model that was viewed as a major achievement for specific leaders. As a result, other options were locked out; a consideration that created controversy with economists and political elites. Marchington and Wilkinson (2005, p. 117) further point out that human resources managers consider conflicts to be critical aspects that must be addressed carefully in defining a better relationship and ultimately greater productivity.

Though Jose and Fernando (2002, pp. 181-182), use of the term ‘militant’ when referring to trade unions has received sharp criticism, it is perhaps the correct term. Trade unions main method of addressing conflicts was use of strikes and demonstrations. As a result, they resulted to great losses to particular institutions, companies and even nations. Human resources managers however, balance between critical human qualifications, existing infrastructure and overall returns as dictated by the demand and supply of resulting products.

Gill (2009, pp. 41-42) therefore concurs with Marlow (2006, p. 78) that everybody has his own niche and stands a better chance of advancing with ease. Modern roles of human resources a) Staffing and selection The roles of human resources have over the years changed with the rising demand to view employees as a responsive system as opposed to a rigid consideration Farber and Western (2002, pp. 398-399) explains that this role therefore creates a harmonic platform that proactively addresses key problems that necessitated the need for trade unions.

Staffing and selection is done on the basis of merits; a consideration that give employees great security both locally and internationally. By conducting effective selection, the employees do not feel threatened, but are given a chance to improve on their skills which the organization they work for strongly struggles to retain while others remain opportunistic to outsource (Blanden and Machin, 2003, pp. 126-127). Unions are therefore rendered less essential as job security is indeed very high and payments highly sustainable. ) Rewarding compensation and motivation management To concur with Gill (2009, p. 90) conclusion, poor rewarding systems formed the basis of unions in the mid-twentieth century. At this time most production were privately owned, but most importantly, they lacked effective competition to trigger better compensation and motivation of their workers. Human resources managements’ greatest roles are indeed to assess performance, initiate the needed improvement efforts and most importantly reward the best performers.

In his theory of human needs, Robert Maslow argued that when employees are guaranteed the needed capacity for progression towards self actualization, other systems are easily foregone (Gill, 2009, p. 48). Unlike the trade unions that provided only raising the salaries, human resources create a roadmap for sustainability; a factor that Brewster (2004, p. 371) indicate directly disrupts their consideration for unionization. c) Employee’s development and modelling When refereeing to the current replacement of trade unions roles with human resources management, one cannot fail to focus on the modelling and development roles.

Though trade unions train their members on different aspects of their relationship with their seniors and the employers, greater credit as Jose and Fernando (2002, p. 189), suggests, is given to human resources managements. As indicated earlier, trade unions lack the necessary specificity on their members who are highly diverse. Due to their smaller nature of operation, human resources have proved to be more effective in that employees are continuously modelled with close supervision with an aim of improving their place in an organization.

Jose and Fernando (2002, pp. 188-190) add that modelling sets a clear role model and a definite roadmap to follow in addressing their concerns and issues. d) Negotiating and change management Unlike during the period of the trade unions, negotiations have taken a central position for all the employees. Brewster (2004, p. 368) explains that human resources management eliminates key bureaucracies and therefore brings the employees closer to the top leadership.

Furthermore, human resources management facilitates teamwork to encourage involvement of all the workers in negotiating their views in an organization. To infer greater need for negotiations, Coca-Stefaniak et al (2005, pp. 366-367) argue that internal and external change agents often propose changes towards improving the welfare of the employees and ultimate productivity of the company. As a result, the need for trade unions to create either a rise in payments or even improved working conditions does not arise. Counterarguments In his view, Phelan (2007, pp. 4-75) suggests that trade unions roles will remain critical despite the current decline. He further points out that though many workers have shifted from the trade unions; their need will always be rekindled during the periods of major crisis. During the 2007-2008 financial crises, many workers turned to trade unions for protection of their jobs. Pencavel (2003, p. 25) cites the political interference in reducing the relevance of the unions. As a result, strength of trade unions will always recur when new political elites with favouring views rise to power.

However, the two counterarguments fail to acknowledge the great advancements in technology that facilitate easier detection of workplace problems, faster communication and precise assessment that assists in making the correct decisions to avoid major issues (Hearnshaw, 2007, p. 69). Conclusion and recommendations From the above discussion, this paper supports the thesis statement, ‘the critical roles played by human resources managements that greatly satisfies the customers, improves their earnings, secures their employment, and maintains the correct organization cultures have increasingly replaced the need for trade unions. Trade unions came out as strong movements that were very vibrant during the 20th century when clear professionalism lacked in running businesses and organizations. Human resources management came in with great specialization that is highly proactive and employees driven; a consideration that surpassed the major roles of the unions. However, counterarguments presented in the discussion are true and their roles will often recur during periods of major crisis in organizations.


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 23 September 2016

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