Management Objectives in Employee Relations

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“Management strategies in industrial relations are the result of constrained rational choice, but are always aimed at maintaining security within the organisation’s decision-making process.” Salamon (1987)

If one is to fully appreciate Salamon’s statement it is necessary to understand the fundamental principles of industrial relations and be aware of relevant factors which have altered the context of the employment relationship, since the traditional ‘master’ and ‘servant’ relationship of the early and mid-nineteenth century. In examining and presenting the evidence which supports the above quoted conclusion, it is hoped that this paper will portray a logical and incisive representation of Salamon’s beliefs in this area.

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On the job he is nearly always the subject to direction of higher authority. His income is seldom sufficient to cover what he thinks his needs demand. The natural state of the industrial worker, therefore, is one of discontent.”

Conflict can therefore be considered the “genesis of industrial relations” and as Barbash believes, “..the essence of industrial relations.” However, for conflict to be justifiable and useful there needs to be a method of managing divisions between parties; as Barbash points out, there is a danger that conflict may become “abnormal, aberrant, dysfunctional or pathological” and result in violence, civil insubordination, or perhaps the abolition of management unions.

Traditionally, the most common method of resolving issues brought about by industrial conflict is collective bargaining, which enables employees to use collective power to counterbalance that of management. However, “the distinctive system of British Industrial Relations based on collective bargaining is no longer characteristic of the economy as a whole.” Milward et al (1992) Collective bargaining has been described by Flanders as “the diplomatic use of coercive power; a pressure group activity; and collective agreements as compromise settlements of power conflicts.”
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