Strikes and Labor-Management Relationships

Introduction

The right to strike is the basic human right that provides the employees with an opportunity to protect their interests. No society can take this right from the employees because this is their fundamental right. However, strikes produce a negative effect on the economy. Due to this issue, a conflict appears between the employees’ rights and the overall situation from the perspective of the economy. The employers should prevent strikes since in this way, the employees will be satisfied and no adverse effects will influence the economy and society. For the strike prevention, it is critical to establish the main factors that can provoke strikes and dissatisfaction of employees. The main causes of the employees’ disappointment may entail dissatisfaction with salary, the lack of stimulating benefits, discrimination and resentment displayed by the employer toward the employee, negative working environment, inappropriate regulation of the employment relations, the desire to support the colleagues who suffer from the limiting work conditions, and the absence of proper communication between employee and employer. Therefore, all these issues can lead to strikes and employees’ unrest. Labor-management relationships might have a significant influence on the regulation of the problems, particularly in regard to the relations between organizations and unions. These relations have to be founded on the collaboration in order to positively affect the employer-employee relationships. Hence, in order to prevent strikes, it is critically important to analyze their major causes and build labor-management relationships on respect and collaboration.

Strikes as the Employees’ Right

The act of striking is the critical issue that government, union, company, or individual can confront. Being the subject of a strike, going on strike oneself, or encountering strikers in public or at work may often provoke powerful emotions for or against such actions among people. The employees’ power is based on their ability to deny their labor and to supply their employers with it. The employees’ ability to withhold their labor is the strongest and most powerful tool for gaining the leverage over the employers. The ability to wield such leverage provides the employees with the ability to make demands that lead to the redistribution of wealth and power within the society (Stewart, & Bell, 2008). Hence, for employees, the act of striking is a powerful tool, and sometimes, it is the only tool they can use. Despite the fact that the number of strikes has reduced in the US as union density has declined, the situation in other parts of the world is different. In some cases, the unionization is increasing and the number of strikes is also rising. The sources of the right to strike are UN resolutions and declarations, International Labor Organization conventions, international treaties, national constitutions, statutes, supreme courts ruling, case law, administrative regulations, and bargaining agreements (Burns, 2011). Therefore, strikes as the right are represented from the legal perspective.

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In order to justify the right to strike, it is critical to regard the needed scope of the rights to determine if it is appropriate in terms of the national labor law model. The scope is strongly related to the aforementioned issues while the right to strike covers only specific employees, such as part-time employees, domestic employees, agricultural employees, public sector employees, and private sector employees. Also, the scope involves issues related to strikes if they occur after certain pre-conditions trigger them. It can be the flawed safety factor in the workplace, illegal behavior or violence from the employer, or other issues, such as excessive exhaustion. The last issue is the work stoppage form that involves general, secondary, sit-down, work-to-rule, go-slow, tools-down, wild-cat, intermittent, sick-out, rotation, durational, and indefinite striking (Burns, 2011). In some states, specific striking forms are protected, while in other states, they can lead to the arrest or termination of the employment. Therefore, in deciding to strike, it is critical to consider all mentioned issues in order to determine if a specific situation falls under the lawful criteria.

Causes of Strikes

Strikes mean the production suspension that lasts while the employer and the workers argue about certain aspects and have difficulties in understanding each other. The employees’ labor value is usually greater in comparison to the wage paid by the employer. Under perfect competitive conditions, the employment surplus is negligible because every worker competes with other workers that lay the claim on the wage, up until the bid matches the employees’ labor value (Islam, 2013). However, it is still difficult to fully explain the instances when the strikes occur. The modern strikes economic theories state that at least one side receives private information after the strikes occur (Burns, 2011), and consequently, the apparent wastes related to strikes are viewed as the cost of gaining this information. Therefore, it is essential to understand the possible causes of the strikes in order to prevent economic challenges in relationships between employer and employee.

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There are several possible reasons for the strikes. One of the common causes that make the employees go on strike is the wage structure and the wages rise. The demand for wages and allowances occupies the top position in the number of disagreements between the employees and the employer because the employees are intensely focused on their allowances and wages (Islam, 2013). The issues about minimum salary and calculation of working days’ number have become the cause of disputes and conflicts that provoked strikes. At the same time, the other cause can be the poor communication between the employees and employers. The main issue is the high mistrust level between trade unions and employers, and it can also provoke strikes. The employers have to be careful with the mistakes they make because it can damage the employer-employee relationships. However, the causes are not limited to the described ones, and there are several other potential strike reasons.

Another issue is the desire of the employees to gain better working conditions. The employees’ demands might be dismissed, even if they concern infrastructure facilities, provision of safety, annual leave with wages, and other issues that form the standard working conditions for the employees (Burns, 2011). When the enforcement model of these needs becomes weak and the requests of the employees are ignored, the only possible solution seems to involve striking, as it is a powerful tool for pursuing the fulfillment of the provisions demands. When an employee is injured in the accident in the course of employment, many employees are entitled to the compensation benefit. In case when this compensation is refused, there is no other way to find justice other than to start strikes for gaining immediate benefits and prevent delays in compensation payments. In a similar way, such advantages as payments for dependents, disablement, maternity leave, sickness, and medical issues should be provided from the legal perspective, but in case they are denied, the employees have the right to begin strikes for their demands enforcement. Thus, the appropriate working conditions and working standards have to be provided by the employers in order to prevent strikes.

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Also, the employees in one industry might provoke strikes in order to express sympathy for the employees in the other industry, even if they have no problems with their own employer. Similar strikes happen with the only aim to express the solidarity of the working class and community interests it includes (Burns, 2011). There is a position that sympathetic strikes are the ones in which the striking employees have no personal demands, but they strike in order to help others workers. Consequently, it has no direct relation to the strikes intermit advancement, and thus is can be considered as the unjustifiable invasion of the employer’s rights. However, if to perceive the sympathy strikes as the attempt of the working class to express resentment toward the specific employer, it would be wrong to say that such strikes can be seen as the unjustifiable invasion of the employer’s rights. The strike starts with a lawful weapon placed in the employees’ hands with the aim of registering their protest or for securing their demands, and it does not put an end to the employer-employee relationship that existed before (Burns, 2011). Hence, the problems with another employer can also become the strike reason.

There are other strike causes that can involve the sensitive issues in the employer-employee relationships. For instance, the strike cause can be the employment regulation. In case the legislation cannot be enforced and the employers have no desire to regularize the contract labor, there is no other efficient tool for the employees other than striking (Islam, 2013). Layoff, probation, and other aspects related to the employees can also be accepted as the strike causes. A similar situation can be regarded with the retrenchment. In some cases, trade unions intensify the problem through the collective bargaining progress. There is a question regarding the identification of the unions that could act as the agent for collective bargaining as they have provoked strikes and will continue to create grounds for further conflicts (Islam, 2013). This is quite a sensitive issue where the conflict is not between the employer and employee, but between different employees that seek recognition gaining purpose. Therefore, all mentioned issues can become the causes of strikes, and in order to prevent challenging situations in the relationships between the employer and employees, they have to be considered, analyzed, and prevented.

Labor Management and Society Implications

Labor management relations take place in the backgrounds that support state or region industry. These relations are not just between managers and employees — instead, they directly affect the industry and the whole economy. Nowadays, the labor-management relations are often perceived as the relations that dominate social and economic activities (Asian Productivity Organization, 2014). Labor-management relationships appeared along with the industrial sector arrival in the modern society. In modern conditions in the industrial society, they are regarded as the critical and fundamental social relationships. These relationships formed the society and supported the industry. Employees and employers are different sides of the concept with different roles and principles (Asian Productivity Organization, 2014). Both actors are indispensable to each other, but despite this fact, they often experience challenges in their relations.

Labor is crucial for corporate management, but it is also important for the employees as it improves their living conditions through the production activities participation. Hence, shaping the cooperative relationship between both sides in order to perform production activities effectively is essential (Asian Productivity Organization, 2014). The difference between the principles of both sides became clear when the profits started to be generated. As greater production was gained, the employees started to request higher wages in order to live comfortably. This is a principles’ conflict that appears naturally, and these conflicts provoke strikes that in turn lead to the industrial stagnation and a negative impact on the economy in general (Asian Productivity Organization, 2014). Therefore, the appropriate performance of the labor-management relationship is crucial to avoid strikes and provide positive outcomes to both employers and employees in particular, and to the economy and society in general.

Managers have to consider the advantages of forming labor-management relationships from the collaborative perspective and to efficiently work together with the aim of promoting these relations for better working conditions of the employees. The main issue is that when such relationships are not based on collaboration, there appears a challenge of developing or perpetuating the adverbial environment. The clear example is the Camden case in the US (Eastlund, 2013). The government of the city, with the state support, had a chance to avoid union negotiations regarding police benefits and salary through dismissing the existing forces and developing the countywide force that could not participate in unionization. As the result, it provoked “tensions in the city, county and state government levels and developed factions within Camden of citizens that did and did not support the decision” (Eastlund, 2013). Now, the city has a terrible reputation due to the high US crime rates, and the stressed economy is separated due to the adverse labor-management relationships. Hence, labor-management relationships based on collaboration play a crucial role in the social benefits.

There are several reasons explaining why it is critical to promote the collaborative labor-management relationship, and one of them is that such relationships built from the collaborative perspective can lead to better organization efficiency. The second issue is that organizations and unions represent common interests that can be gained only through the collaborative-directed actions (Eastlund, 2013). The next reason is that cost-avoidances and cost-savings can be accepted within the organizations and unions collaborations, while the last reason is that collaboration promotes the raised employee satisfaction, improves workforce, and betters service delivery (Eastlund, 2013). Therefore, it is essential to promote collaboration in the labor-management relationships and in the society in general.

It is possible to provide some recommendations for the collaborative promotion, and the first one is the investment in the participative decision-making strategies. Participative decision-making process is the efficient way to build a collaborative partnership focused on a shared problem-solving strategies that would aim to ensure common benefits and common interests between organizations and unions (Eastlund, 2013). They have similar aims in many cases, but are unable to concentrate on these shared goals due to the perceived differences in the ways of their achievements. Participative decision making can engage organizations and union managers in an open discussion about such topics as service delivery improvement, satisfaction of employees, and fiscal management. Participative decision making tends to be efficient when both sides can participate in a conversation before main problems occur. At the same time, it is critical to understand that participative decision–making process could require the shift in the culture. Culture change demanded by participative decision-making process can be challenged immediately, but the wide trust-building assortment and cooperation-inducing interventions are the available and proven methods of dealing with this problem (Eastlund, 2013). This issue is important for realizing that culture changes can be time intensive and daunting, and since there are effective methods for the collaboration building, there is no need to create something new.

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The second recommendation is to apply the expertise from the HR department of the organization. Usually, HR managers are excluded from the labor-management relationships. The HR managers perceive organizations and unions as the challenge. A union leader should be assured that HR managers have loyalty to the managers of the organizations and have no personal interest in giving preference to the employees’ problem solving (Eastlund, 2013). However, organization leaders see HR managers as law interpreters, not as partners. Such realization appears because “HR managers tend to be employees with the best skillset for negotiating tough challenges among groups with perceived differences, promoting collaboration and teaching leaders how to promote the participative decision making and being collaborative” (Eastlund, 2013). The use of the expertise of HR managers and their participation in labor-management relationships building through the collaborative perspective can improve the process of the implementation of aforementioned recommendations.

The next recommendation is that public administrators have to focus on the labor-management relationships research. In modern days, the deep scientific research of labor-management relationships is still neither clear nor relevant. Researchers state that “public sector research lags behind its private sector counterparts and that it has primarily been conducted by practitioners, union officials, or non-public administration academics” (Eastlund, 2013). These people do not propose a valuable perspective on the problem, and they claim to have a lack of resources and time to provide appropriate studies with results that could be generalized fir the future. Sometimes, they are people who are not involved in the public administration area and thus lack the needed background to grasp the importance of the labor-management relationships complex pieces in public sector.

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Another recommendation is to promote good leaders and to invest in their development. It is the most critical implication because all conflict-management relationship studies refer to the importance of the presence of the appropriate leaders who could collaborate. Hence, “public administrators can have difficulties with choosing union leadership, but it is possible to choose individuals that can be union leadership partner” (Eastlund, 2013). The main idea is that appropriate leaderships prefer the collaborative approach and do not need to be directed to focus on it. It was established that labor-management relationships’ real cost-avoidance and cost-savings are accepted as the collaborative practices result (Eastlund, 2013). People have to search actively for those individuals who exemplify the characteristics of participative decision making and collaboration. When people determine who these leaders are, they should continually reinforce their training in order to assist them and empower their collaboration tools. When leaders represent their desire to have an open discussion with leaders from the union, when they build trust and act in a collaborative manner, the negative cycle reaches its end and new direction toward collaborative and strong partnerships can be found (Eastlund, 2013). Hence, all these recommendations are crucial for promotion of the collaboration in the labor-management relationships and the society in general. The main issue is that collaboration is essential for the effective partnership of both sides and the society, which in turn can help to avoid challenges and conflicts and to predict negative economic and societal consequences.

 

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