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Collective bargaining and industrial agreements between firms and the unions have been the major concern of the industrial relations. This has been tackling labor and workers rights as well as their grievances in Britain through different levels of government interventions. Currently, an industrial relations sector has been experiencing changes through the initiation of the transnational industrial relations systems that work hand in hand with the already established national industrial relations systems. The government, the union and the firms are the main actors in the structures of e industrial relations. By the beginning of 1980s, many workers in Great Britain were members of the various union organizations. Moreover, non-union organizations have emerged with a rapid shift of public rules such as the employment legislation that focuses on the statutory trade union acknowledgement along with the raising regulation initiated by the European Union on matters of personal and collective bargaining rights. This paper seeks to explore the employment relations in non-union firms with the focus on British industrial relations.
Employment Relations in Non-Union Firms
In United Kingdom, industrial relations matters such strikes demand for wages and other better working conditions are daily occurrences. Industrial relations can be termed as the processes and approaches used to run and control the employment relationship. Employment relationship is an economic, political and communal connection whereby employees avails the physical and mental labor force for rewards from the employers. To the employers, industrial relations facilitate benefits of profit, power and communal domination while the worker gains in monetary terms, social of psychological reward. Workers provide ranging skills from skilled labor force, unskilled to semi-skilled labor force.
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According to Gall and McKay (2001), the call for non-union organizations in UK came as a result of an article that was published on the EU Directive on employee information and consultation. Its effectiveness and efficiency has not been smoothly running without the intervention of legal or other external reinforcements but the evolving legal approach and management approaches will contribute to their future significance. Lack of linkage between the UK’s long-running mono-channel system of trade union representations and the global employee rights to information access and referrals highly emphasized by the EU regulations has been a worrying issue. The drastic decrease of the collective bargains between the trade unionism and union-based agents for the last 30 years, and the increasing population of Britain workforce are being exposed to poor or lack of formal or official workers representations structures at their places of works.
Terry (1999) details that minimal exposure of the union-based approach, interest and concern have increased in the UK’s scarce experience of employee representations in non-union places of jobs. There is great and urgent need for non-union forms of collective employee representation because, the slowly growing development of a framework of law as per the EU legislation regarding rights of employee to information and referral. These kinds of privileges are present only under the regulations of the Directives on an all round redundancies and changes of duties; where by the Labor government has expressed her amend the long-running statutory protocols. This system contrasts the previous Conservative government whose limited approach resulted to negative ruling in the European Court of Justice and running trade union negativities. The suggested work council is important as it will increase the urge of constructing and coming up with a representations system in non-union industries. Also, it is vital due to the raising concerns of employee ration among the non-union employers, coming from the informative-ness of the legislative advancements and from the modern interest in partnership ideas that normally give a system of representation employee the running and controlling role. A good example of a non-union trade was the initiatives by a supermarket group that established a system of store-based works organization.
Over 25% of established workers in the UK by 1984 were not formally represented through a collective management-employee organization. A survey conducted in 1990 indicated that, the ratio of the employees who had access to these committees had decreased drastically especially to the minorities who were working in big organizations in manufacturing firms and the privatized organizations and the public service departments (Gall and McKay, 2001). The existence of this type of representations is founded under trade unions well known to employers for reasons consultations and negotiations. According to Terry (1999) the recent survey indicate that non-union representation approach are common in average to big businesses within the manufacturing and assembling firms, that is in organizations that are a characterized by trade union association.
Employers’ approach to establish representative system of employees without the governance of trade union limits the effectiveness of employee’s representation. Managers seem to assume non-union representative system by putting less emphasis than the way they consider other employees who are in a trade union. Most employee representatives are less skilled, less trained and less equipped than their colleagues from the in union representatives, and mostly frustrated by the manager’s negligence in acknowledging their role of representation. During meetings, there is managerial dominance of their list of activities for consultation with limited or no discussion on the nagging issues from the employee representative that eventually results to breakdown of consultation system in different meetings.
Comparing the consultation processes between the union and employee representative groups, the variations gets in through the availability of skills and experience resources and the domination and influences in the unionized representative thus managers attaching graeter importance to them in consultation process. As result, workers representation in non-union industries lacks the power and drive to provide laborers with a consultation process equal or close to the in the unionized departments. In addition, the legally supported employee rights in absence of a trade union expertise and support lacks to signify equal standards of representation. Most initiatives by the non-union employers in the United Kingdom to implement a panel of employee’s representation have been unsatisfactory and fulfilling according to most employees. This has been facilitated by lack of expertise and employee’s weakness in the organizations and the persistence assumptions of managers to hold a meaningful dialogues and consultations even though these consultations can improve the firm’s productivity (Terry, 1999).
A union of legal pressure and few changes in management attitude in supporting a partnership might change this stand, but lack of trade unions and resistances from managerial departments in the representation systems can hardly lead to effective negotiations of workers’ rights to information and consultation. There is a possibility that, the places of work where the employees representatives non-union are frustrated and neglected, powered by their collective workforces might provide basis for the trade unions to get legal channels to acknowledge them, as in the near future will be under the Employment Relations Acts (Terry 1999).
Unionized industries are poorly represented in various work places in the UK. In the past, there has been a decline in the union members and employees whose enumerations and working conditions are established through a collective bargain. Turnbull and Wass (1998) note that this has been attributed to misinformation on the running of firms without unions or work experience in non-union enterprise. In the instances that the workers are the issue in question, they are viewed from the approach of propensity of employees to unionize and on distinguishing managerial activities and the unionized industries. As a result, the essence of non-unionism lacks at work place and falls into either the anti-union bleak house. The management intentionally strives to deny the employees their rights or the happy house; management provides the benefits and requirements of employees blinding them from joining the union (Turnbull &Wass 1998).
In the bleak house, there exist few personnel expertise and relations who are replaced by industrial relations that is, the official procedures or mechanisms are substituted by consultation, communication, discipline and retrenchments are common. Accordingly, the management approach to critic instead of corrective action and firing instead of discipline every time an issue occurs. It was noted that, managerial procedure in small non-union firms tend to provide conducive environments for industrial relations but seem to be faced by the motivational problem. It is not a shock that, the workers generally report a socially withdrawn relation with management especially when subjected to poor wages, poor working conditions and job insecurities.
On the other hand, the happy house is founded on strong personnel presence, good and elaborated communication system and opportunities of all round consultations. Official grievances protocol and respect of same opportunities, job security and within promotions with quality levels of workers commitment to the enterprise is emphaised because of their little work but a high enumerations, pleasing benefits and allowances, and profit sharing. Though the ideology of union oppression and union substitution lies in the type of non-union management approach; the traditional and complex human relations, various non-union firms will be classified within these approach. They advocate for a good agreement on variation between these types and beyond the dichotomy, showing the styles of management-labor relations within non-union firms which are housed by the traditional and complex human relations. For instance, not all small industries can be grouped in the bleak house.
According to Gall and McKay (2001) not all small non-union industries are ‘ugly’. Some are just unlucky to have bad managers and other are advantaged due to lack of well structured managerial protocols but by chance follows the current ‘fads and fashions’ and employ various human resource management approaches. Few have good employers who follow clear human resource approaches and strictly follow human resource management policies. There is a generalized assumption that these enterprises highly likely to be innovative high-tech firms but on the ontraray, they are mostly found in non-finaciaol services instead of assembling sectors. Union or non-union firms normally reflect none growing or unmovable structure of management which accommodates dynamic, contrasting and contingent nature of management-labor relations. It has been noted that, typologies of managerial approach shows only in the recommended style of governing employees relations which can be corrected while exercising them. For instance, the commitment of firms to people is always question in that, though they continuously provide or reflect good human relations, they employ a ruthless approach in pursuit of achieving its objectives thus coming out as authoritative. According to Turnbull and Wass (1998) this kind of contradictions in a firms operation and its attainment of objectives are normally present and common due various external pressures mostly the economic recessions and inflations.
People in the UK are very misinformed about the effectiveness of employee consultations and representation in non-unionized organizations especially on the effects and managerial decision influences in of the non-union employee representations (NER). A current initiative by European Commission specified the duties of NER structure by establishing a framework for communication with employees in the European community. Gollan (2001) notes that this initiative requires the members to inform and consult with their workers in advance on issues with direct impact on organization of work, job assurances and contracts of employments on their terms and conditions.
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A Eurotunnel company committee was established as a lone-channel of employee representation as a firm’s communication’s forum obligated to provide information and consultation on issues of common concern to workers, to control the social and welfare and monetary projections and to represent all workers at Eurotunnel fro bargaining and negotiating on enumerations and working conditions. though Eurotunnel only recognized the company council, after the launching of the Employment Relations Act in 1999, a partnership and acknowledgement treaty was passed by Eurotunnel management and the transport and General Workers Union (T&GWU) confirming the acknowledgement of the running consultation framework and initiated a collective management trade union forum.
According to a survey conducted on communication processes, respondent indicated that, both the trade unions and company council representatives were not helpful thus ineffective means to use fro communicating with the workers concerning job matters (Gollan, 2001). Many were not comfortable with the quantity, type and the duration of information from management. In addition, approximately 40 per cent of the people interviewed responded by saying they hardly trust the information provided any the management body. Questioned about the information received regarding the employment problems, slightly over 10 percent reported that
they receive little or no communication as far as employment is concerned while more than 67 per cent said the hardly get any information regarding staffs recruitment and working procedures. It is worth noting that, even after the introduction of trade unions, no or little information was still availed to the workers on the issues of union, and the presence of trade union did not affect or influence the communication on matters concerning the payment and workers benefits (Bryson, 2004). Thus indicating that, trade union had minimal if any influence on the Eurotunnel management protocol. A respondent from cited that, Eurotunnel management is arrogant as they only adhere to the employees issues if and only if they will contribute to the growth and success of the company, otherwise, assume workers opinions and suggestions.
According to Gollan (2001), a significant number of work representations were in frequent contact with the company council representatives while some were not aware of whom their representatives were. The communication strategy of the company council on work place was seen to be irrelevant with more emphases on the issues of enumeration, job security and working conditions. Trade unions were preferred to non-union representative as they were perceived to be more active and concerned with the problems and workplace issues than the company council’s representative were. This because, company council representatives are answerable to the management panel thus following what they have been instructed without objection or suggestion as they have no power or authority. As a result, trade unions were supported and recommended in the workplace as they were assumed to improve the conditions of the workers and also contribute to the fighting for the better payment, benefit and working conditions.
In addition, company council representatives were not effective in representing the collective workers interests in the departments they were working in. This was attributed to the fact that, these representatives are just workers who are fighting for the same rights and benefit like any other employee but they do not have the power and capacity to achieve their deals. To attain this, they need to cooperate with management and be provided with more powers on given matters of the employees, and management should work with them not against them. In response to this, trade unions were preferred to represent the employee’s interests, while there were instances of individuals opting to represent themselves rather than using any channel.
The Eurotunnel researches provides a chance to look into the consultation approaches from the non-union and trade union representations of the employees and also evaluating the workers attitudes and perception of both the unions representation and the management procedures of a firm. The establishment of NER is entirely to have an organization that can represent employee’s needs and grievances without the involvement of another force like the trade union which failed according to most employees because it lacked the power and the freedom on certain issues, and were equal workers who were fighting for the same issues. By the factual of being workers they were controlled and directed by the management structure thus had to follow without objection. The dissatisfaction on various problems according to employees very important, and the absence of trust between the management and workers seem to have instigated the unionization process (Gollan 2001).
Union and non-union firms have effects on the organizational performance. Organizations have been assuming the Worker’s voices through the use of representation and establishment of recognition of unions as result of existing void between the real and desirable levels of worker representations. The disparity has been reduced by the establishment of non-inions and direct types of worker representation. Workers voice can be termed as the expression of complaints and grievances and the involvement of workers in the decision making process of organization. They are aimed at facilitating a channel of collective consultation between the employers who are profit oriented and the employees seeking for recognition of their rights. According to McKay, (2001), the success of any firms entirely lies on the voices of employee thus should never be ignored otherwise the quality and productivity will be effected. Also the voices could contribute in deflecting the issues which could have exploded.
The productivity and morale of employees is directly proportional to the chances they have to express their problems, thus the more the chances the workers have to air their grievances and changing the disgruntling work conditions, and the higher the chances they have of staying on the organization (Benson 2000). Workers voice systems can be direct; started by workers and indirect; by trade unions and elected members. Charlwood, (2002) details that, the main aim of representation of workers voice is on joint bargaining and consultation. Collective forums for airing workers problems are essential in some circumstances as they enhance the strengthening of employee’s organizations and pave way for direct channels of communication among the workers and the management panels (Colling 2003). Bryson, (2004) contradicts this view in that, more official union structure may result to disparities in communication between the workers and the employers as they present their issues through a third parties; the trade unions.
Union gives the employees a channel through which they can bargain for better condition and discuss for better payment and benefits. Benson, (2000) adds that, workers represented through unions stand better chances of earning better than they could earn had their been in an non-union structure, and also union bonds workers through giving a voice in influencing policy and decision making process thus reducing payment disparities and other issues. Unions strengthen workers and also help the employers in reducing costs of hiring and training costs for new workers. Many firms opts a unionized organizations fro workers voice acknowledgement instead of non-unionized approach as it takes least time and resources. Unions put more pressure on the organizations to respect and adhere to workers grievances. Also unions provide various benefits for all parties involved, though their support has been falling. This is because, unions tends to created monopoly as they have a lot of powers, which ends up affecting the employers, he businesses and ordinary citizen in cases of strikes. According to Abbot, (1998) effects of union to workers productivity are minimal as most of them re located in firms with retarded growth rates.
From the foregoing discussion, it is evident that workers voices through non-unionized structures can be presented through Joint Consultative Committees and Works Councils. JCC provides official information sharing methods between the employers and the workers representatives. According to Edwards (2003), it handles matters of collective concerns resulting to advice to management in making sound decisions as in presences of collective consultations, people exchange ideas and opinions and are adhered to as per their practically and benefits for both parties. The employment relations in non-union firms is a matter that need to be addressed from different approaches. Workers and the employers need to come up with channels and means to address and solve their issues for the betterment of both the employee and the employer. The management should consider the workers representatives as part of the organization and thus involve them in the daily running of the firms and consult them when making decisions regarding the working conditions and employment issues.
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