Labor Disputes And Resolution Procedures : Study On Unison
A Case Study On Unison
Conflicts and grievances cannot be separated in the employment relationship. Labour and management have conflicts of opinions and views which are responsible for creation of issues. It cannot be determined whether labour or management is right on their part. It is actually the expectation of both the parties from each other that if unfulfilled results into disputes. There are three main elements of disputes - interest, rights and power (Heckman and Pagés, 2000). The labour and management both have certain level of interest in each other which is the basis for the continuation of their relationship. Both the parties have relevant rights that act as guideposts for a fair outcome. The third element of power relates with which each party can influence each other. At the time of dispute resolution, both the parties in dispute choose to focus on one or more of these factors to come to a valid and agreeable solution (Feldmann, 2008). They may also aim to reconcile their personal interest and determine the right and wrong or the influence of power on each other's. The reconciliation of interests involves deep seated concerns and devising a solution to trade off the interests of each other. Further, the most common form of dispute resolution method is negotiation. To reach a mutual agreement and to determine the outcomes requires the parties to involve a neutral third party who is assumed to have the power the power to come to a conclusion and settle the dispute (Botero and et. al., 2004). There is also another way to resolve the dispute and which is the use of power to coerce the other one to do which they may not like.
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UNISON is one of the largest trade unions in UK that serves 1.3 million members worldwide. The organization represents full and part time staff employed in public and private sectors. These staff members are employed in different departments of health care, education and government as well as voluntary sectors such as energy which includes - water, gas and electricity. There is also staff members employed in transport and logistics sector. The organization provides services to its members by helping them to improve working conditions through a number of ways -
The reason behind the choice of UNISON for the purpose of study is due to the nature and objective of organization that aims to serve trade unions and members therein. The organization continuously works towards the betterment of members who are employed in varied sectors. The activists and members work to improve the working conditions to ensure health and safety of employees (Bonaccio and Dalal, 2006). The members also ensure that they work in compliance with the laws and regulations to ensure effectiveness. They also make arrangements for negotiation and bargaining process in a healthy environment to reduce the confusion and reach at a mutual acceptable agreement (Goldman, 2001).
Aim - The aim of the study is to determine the major issues that are faced by the labour at their work place which restrict their performance in the market. The research also determines the actual procedures that are followed by the firm UNISON for resolving these issues of the labour in an efficient and effective manner.
The purpose of carrying out this project study lies in the identification of the causes and types of labour disputes and suggests resolution in an efficient manner to satisfy and justify the opinions of both parties involved in the disputes (Brockner and et. al., 2007). This is because of the compelling nature of the study demanding an analysis of the labour issues at work that hinders their performance and in turn affects the overall performance of the business. The purpose of this research is to help determine the reasons that led to the conflicts and worsen the relationship between labour and management (Chan and Goto, 2003). It is hoped that this study will significantly contributes to ease the situation of conflicts in the organization and enable both of them to resolve any dispute in a productive manner.
The present study on labour disputes and resolution will be attempted through a systematic procedure. It is important to identify and list the methods and techniques to be used in data collection and analysis to ensure that it matches with the aims and objectives of the study.
Research Philosophy - The present study focused on labour disputes and resolution will be studied through interpretivism philosophy. It undertakes subjective approach assumes that present reality is developed through inter subjectivity as result of social interaction.
Research Design - Descriptive research design will be used to explain the cause and effect relationship of labour disputes and its potential impact on the progress of the business.
Research Approach - Deductive research approach will be used in present case that aims to move from general observations to company specific. The labour disputes issues will be studied from general perspectives and will move towards the case basis.
Data Collection - Collection of data in the present study will utilize both primary and secondary sources. The nature of objective of the study requires the necessity of multiple sources as only one source cannot be assumed to be sufficient to generate desired results. Primary information will be gathered through questionnaire survey and secondary data will be obtained through books, journals and research papers related with the similar subject.
Data Analysis - Data collected from multiple sources will be analysed through qualitative techniques. The choice of the technique is based on the subjective approach of the study to carry out an in depth analysis for the cause of labour disputes and implications on the overall business.
Sampling - Random sampling techniques will be used to collect survey sample and generate findings from the study.
Labour dispute and its implication has been a subject of research for several decades. while some scholars consider disputes as destructive, others consider it as an opportunity to generate awareness about the various issues. It also signifies the development of resources and business at full potential.
Babbie and Mouton (2001) defines labour dispute in the context of employment as disagreement between employees and employers over particular areas. The study findings identified two main reasons as dispute of rights and interest. The clash of rights and interest of labour and management thus raises the situation of conflict.
According to the labour act, dispute of right is defined as one that involves rights and obligations that is occasioned by alleged unfair practices or breach of regulations under the employment act. It can also be understood as that dispute of right entails infringement of the legal obligations. Dispute of interest is defined as one in which one party who is known as the claimant seeks advantage from the other party to which the former has no legal entitlement. The dispute of interest does not entail right of the either party involved in it (Bhorat, Pauw and Mncube, 2007). It is just a matter of opinion that differs between them. The dispute of interest may rise as result of providing privileged benefit to a group of people.
According to study by Basson, Christianson and Garbers (2005), labour dispute is a serious disagreement between the employer and workforce. The author identified categories of dispute as wage, work hours, working conditions, termination, equal treatment, bonus, pensions and retirement benefits. In addition, the dispute of rights includes right to get paid regularly and in right amount which is sufficient to fulfil the basic needs of human beings. The dispute of interest involves the pension and retirement benefits that belong to employees. To handle the disputes in an orderly manner and to reach a mutual agreement, trade unions are involved in the procedure. The negotiation procedure is carried out in compliance with the labour act that described the structure and processes to resolve the dispute in an appropriate manner. Furthermore, the significance of labour act lies in the fact that it governs the activities and decision of the trade unions which if seems not complying with the law can be subject to legal actions.
Benjamin (2007) mentioned in his study that there are increasing dispute of rights between the labour and management. It includes discrimination, compensation, working conditions and termination of employment contract. There are increasing cases identified in the past related with these areas. To deal with these issues and protect the rights of the employees, employment act and labour relation act are formed and used as a basis to deal with the situation. In contrast to this, dispute of interest occurred when employer and employees do not agree on a certain issue which is not their right to avail. The resolution of such disputes can be done through collective bargaining and negotiation with the involvement of third party which remain neutrals and generate results that is in interest of both the parties. The involvement of third party ensures that decisions will be based on consideration of issues from both the areas and that it will generate meaningful results. It also happens that resolution of dispute of interest may result in development of new rights which affects the relationship between two parties.
Bosch, Molahlehi and Everett (2004 based the study on categorisation of dispute of right and dispute of interest and concludes that regular and proper compensation is right of every employee while wage increase is subject to interest of the management. There is actually a very thin line between the two types of disputes when it comes to wage determination and distribution. It has been analysed that compensation that is sufficient according to the qualification of employee and that which fulfil the basic needs is the right of every employee. In this case, the wage increase can be termed as dispute of interest. It is the interest of the management whether or not to increase the wage rates. In contrast to this, the wage rate which is not sufficient to fulfil the basic needs of the employees of food and water comes under the category of dispute of right. The management in this case cannot treat this as dispute of interest.
Brand (2000) based its study on the implications and consequences of the failure to reach a mutual agreement for the resolution of dispute. Non agreement on any of the major issue that includes substantial number of employees can lead to serious consequences. The implications can be in the form of strike, lockout, threatening, etc. In such cases, both the parties i.e. labour and management take actions against each other that aims to coerce so that final decision favours them. The management can withhold wages, close the factory or threaten employees. This actually worsens the situation as the parties of dispute are indulging in activities which are permitted by law. Lockout and withhold of wage payment are also considered against the rights of the employees. This can also be termed as anarchy and non-fulfilment of legal obligations.
The collective bargaining is defined in relation with the employer and employee relations. It is defined as the process of negotiation that seeks to resolve any dispute by establishing shared responsibility and mutual agreement. The scope of collective bargaining has undergone significant changes in recent years extending its coverage in a well laid out legal structure. It is the suitability of collective bargaining process that it now gaining legal recognition.
Earlier the organisation chooses to base their negotiation on centralised bargaining systems which is now taken the shape of enterprise level bargaining system. This shift is the result of the reduction in union membership and influence of corporate sector that has gained significance in the last three decades. The resultant changes drives the need to important modification at the enterprise level that includes work hours, classification of jobs, flexibility in organisation structures and policies, decentralization of authorities and responsibilities.
Benjamin (2009) mentioned in its study that there is a difference of benefit obtained through collective bargaining from the perspective of employer and employee. From the point of view of employee, collective bargaining increases equal distribution of income which is s benefit to them. On the other hand, employees also consider it as restricting their skills, knowledge and ability. In similar case, the aspect of decentralization of authority and responsibilities increase the complication which also increases in the wake of globalization. But from employee’s perspective, decentralization helps in improving their potential as it utilises their skills and abilities at full potential. There are also other factors such as recognizing quality and performance that increases the need for negotiation.
According to Benjamin and Gruen (2006), need for collective bargaining has been realised by the employers in the recent years due to the change in business environment and increasing competition. Employers also prefer to share the profit earned by the collective efforts of employees through financial and non-financial incentives.
Brand and et.al. (2008) also supports the process of collective bargaining as the way to attain mutual benefit for both employer and employee that also aims to improve the relationship between the two. The study findings also revealed that there are significant shift towards the increasing the legal restrictions on the trade unions as combined with minimum employment rights. In present case, the industrial system in UK is the combination of collective agreements which does not seem to be legal and statutory requirements and minimum employment rights. The union membership has thus lost its involvement. The presence of trade unions also affects the level of collective bargaining in the organization.
According to Craig (2008), the current issues faced by the work force in the present time are related with the wage determination. It has actually become a major issue in both public and private sector that employees will never be satisfied with the wage policies of the company. In private sector, the wage policies are formed at the uppermost level of the organization. The wage policies are also directly related with the work hours that the employees have to complete. The wage policies and work hours also significantly varies at different organizational structures. Employees at the high level often enjoy the higher proportion of compensation and employees at the lower level have the least proportion of compensation. Moreover, the huge structures in the private sectors are also responsible for increasing the complexities of the situation.
Studies also show that discrimination is another major issue that at the workplaces. Labourers are victim of discrimination for raising an issue against the employer. However there is Employment Act 2008 established to govern issues at the workplaces. The amended law is an enhancement of the previous Employment Act of 2002 and aims to cover more areas to deal with dispute resolution and strengthen wage and other standards. The act also works in coordination with trade unions to confirm for any case law updates.
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The various work related issues as identified by Unison are appraisal, discipline, dismissal, whistle blowing, resignation and suspension. Study conducted by Du Toit (2006) also found that issues related different work related areas increases the stress and tension among the labours. The research focused on appraisal and discipline founds that there increasing level of dissatisfaction among the labours with the way their performance is evaluate and the result obtained through it. It also mentions that time taken to evaluate their performance and the processes used does not match with the compensation and bonus they expect.
Study focused on the resignation and suspension by Field (2009) revealed that process followed by employers and notice period given are not sufficient. It further mentions despite the financial and economic recovery they are still unable to find suitable jobs and above it the situation worsens more if they are forced to resign and or suspended from their job.
Study by Hoexter (2008) based on the health of labor workforce reveal shocking results. The facts and figures collected from various industries and sector found that stress takes the top place among the health issues at the workplace. The data collected for the cause of stress found that is largely generated as reaction to pressure or fear at the workplace.
Studies have also found that workers felt limited power to initiate and raise issues in the absence of non-unionized workplaces. The workers also enjoy comparatively less benefits with their unionized counterparts.
The trade unions were also criticized for raising issues in the organization and affecting the operations. But studies also suggest that trade unions are more than a mere wage bargainers. There are increasing number of workers joining the trade unions as they perceive that unions would protect them against being a victim under several issues. But in the absence of trade unions, workers fear for being victim of discrimination or hatred in case if they raise any issue against the management. The trade unions serves as the bridge between the employers and labour. It has been wrongly perceived by the employers that trade unions only work against them and considers the point of labour.
A study on the process and techniques used by Unison revealed that the organization actually work as bridge between the employees and employers. In a battle against a community healthcare organization, the group raise the concern for the health of patients through employee cuts. The healthcare facility plans to cut one in six staff members. Although the decision of facility would impact the employment of workers but Unison raised concerns that job cuts would impact the patients health and condition. Thus there is clear evidence found that Unison not only works for the betterment of employees but considers the impact of employers actions on the community as a whole.
Labour disputes at workplaces are resolved through Employment Tribunals in UK which were earlier known as Industrial Tribunals till 1998. The tribunals are independent judicial bodies which considers the disputes taking into consideration case outlook from both sides. The structure of Employment Tribunal are made up of three individual, one each play as representative from employer and employee and the third one in the qualified judge. In case of any preliminary legal arguments, the employment judge sits alone on the board to decide upon the case. These Employment Tribunals are serviced through regional offices, which perform the work of processing and making arrangements for hearing.
Hutchinson (2009) mentioned in its report that Employment Tribunals are considered as distinctive feature of UK administrative system and law as it aims to provide speedy resolution while ensuring justice to both sides. Their role in promoting fairness at work and enforcement of employment rights at individual level play an integral role in the judicial system. It provide a platform for individuals who felt that their employment rights are infringed or not fulfilled in the desired manner.
The initial establishment of Employment Tribunals was formed to resolve disputes arising between the employer and employee based on the compensation. The Tribunal Act first formed under the name of Redundancy Payment Act 1965. Later on it took the shape of Industrial Relations Act 1971 that resolves disputes concerned with Unfair Dismissal.
Leeds and Wöcke (2009) support the process and methods used by Employment Tribunals stating that they provide a quick, cheap and informal means of resolving conflicts between the employers and employees. It also mentions that Tribunals may act as less formal but they act in a more legalistic and less complex way than the civil court process.
The probability of arising a conflict between the employer and employee is due to the dissatisfaction level arising from the actions or underperformance of the opposite party. When employers can expect employees to work at full potential and contribute effectively for the increase in profit margins, there could be no argument when employees asked for fair treatment. Research focused on conflict management styles suggest that employees are inclined to adopt conflict resolution and compromising method if there occurs a possibility of agreement (Mctague, 2015). The reason being employees favour compromising solution as they fear of loss of job if the issue becomes more complex at the Tribunal board.
Levy and Venter (2006) mentioned in its research that there are other factors in the organization than the power differences that exist between the employers and employees. The study also suggest that solution reached through the process of mutual agreement between the conflicting parties increasing the trust and engagement and reduces the impact on business operations.
Study by Lewicki, Barry and Saunders (2007) also supports the notion of trust and confidence between the employer and employee and said that it is the basis for the development of business relation between the two. Job performance and compensation are actually the secondary things. Moreover, the management can take the initiative to influence employees or labour force to reach to a mutual agreement.
According to study by Roberts and Palmer (2005) if conflicts shift from move away from mutual agreement, it is likely that it led to more new issues. It also suggest that managers and supervisors play an important role in conflict resolution using multiple methods. These two designations are the link between the labor and senior level management and they are actually aware of the situation of both sides. In maximum working days, there is less interaction between the senior management and labour. The supervisors have the responsibility to manage the work among the employees and complete the target set by the management. The labor force are left with one contact point and i.e. the supervisors to discuss any issues related with wage, working hours, safety, etc.
Theron (2005) mentions in his journal that supervisors and managers must be provided with that authority to resolve the disputes at their end. They serve as first contact point and a link between the employer and employee, maximum time the issues can be easily resolved by them.
According to Craig (2008), if managers are bot able to resolve the dispute it is not their mistake but it is actually the fault of management for not providing the due authority to tackle issues and reduce the possibility to make it more complex. When managers are only meant to pass on the queries and communication from both the sides, the relevancy and trust between the employer and employees reduces.
Field (2009) recommended in its journal that first and foremost way of resolving a dispute constructively managing in internally within the organization. Although external help can be taken to seek advice on various matters. It is not necessary that employers and employees both are aware of the updated legislations and regulations.
The concept of interpretivism is based on the subjective aspect of the data which assumes that only through this method the reality can be explored and understood. The study of topic into its natural environment is the basis of the philosophy. The philosophy is an epistemology that favours that it is necessary for the researcher to understand the differences that exist between individuals in their role as social actors. This emphasise on the subject of study on individual rather than on objects such as non living things. It actually revolve round the term social actors which is significant in the philosophy. It thus integrates human interest into the study. Based on this philosophy, the researcher assumes that reality can be accessed through social constructions in the form of language, shared meanings and consciousness. For the present study interpretivism philosophy will be used to collect and analyse data. The study on labour disputes will be analysed taking into consideration human interest and the role in the occurrence and resolution process.
The positivism philosophy is based on the approach that reality is stable and can only be observed and described from an objective point of view. It does not interfere with the phenomena under study. The positivism philosophy assumed that phenomena can be isolated and observations can be repeated. This requires manipulation of reality with variations in which there are tow variables - dependent and independent. The single independent variable can be manipulated to determine the impact on the dependant variable. Observation and conclusion can be drawn on the typo and frequency of change that seems to occur with the variations. The philosophy is based on the structured and systematic format to obtain generalized and quantifiable results. Usually the results are based on statistical calculations. Moreover, the philosophy when used in natural sciences assumes that universal and natural laws are the only thing which are unchangeable, rest all things are in continuous process of change.
The third type of philosophy i.e. realism takes into consideration human beliefs and values. It consider that both these aspects are interrelated with each other. It assume that present reality is only an estimation and that there is more to explore in the world. The objective is always included towards discovering and exploring more topics and understanding various aspects of reality. The philosophy does not considers individual as part of natural science. Moreover the philosophy is used to justify the beliefs through valid proofs to develop and enhance knowledge.
Information collection is the base of analysis and conclusion drawn to come to a particular point. For the purpose of present study, multiple methods and sources of information will be targeted so that judgement could be base on the relevant study and analysis of information. The methods in present case will be both primary and secondary sources. Both the methods come with some advantages and disadvantages.
Primary information will be collected through questionnaire survey. A structured and relevant questionnaire will be prepared and sent to the employees. In this, relevant information through employees will help in analysing the type of issues occurring at workplaces and what difficulties they are facing in the resolution process. The selection of survey method is considered the most suitable in analysis the current labor issues and reason behind their occurrence. The economy has recovered form the financial turmoil so there could be some specific issued related with it. There is no point in studying the age old data related with labor management issues. The process of collection of primary data will start with the development of questionnaire.
Other than the questionnaire survey, secondary sources of information such as journals and books will also be targeted. There is substantial research on the labour disputes and establishments of acts and resolutions done. Thus information related to legal structure and regulations and employment rights will be collected and analysed. Secondary data will be collected through internet medium and library sources. Internet medium will require desk research to be conduct in systematic manner to ensure relevant sources are targeted to go into the information pool.
Both the sources of data collection will contribute significantly for the purpose of study. Primary source could be time and cost consuming but it provide real time information for study. On the other hand, secondary data may be outdated but it will provide review and findings on similar subjects. The inclusion of multiple data collection methods is important for the study because only one source cannot assumed to contribute for the meaningful conclusion. Also, only one source will be inefficient and ineffective to analyse the findings. Primary information helps to identify and analyse the present labor disputes and reason for their occurrence. While previous literature and research done on labor acts, resolution and procedures helps in analysing the type of issues in the past and steps taken to resolve those conflicts. With the pool of information, the researcher will also get to know if there are any particular issues repeating on continuous basis and what are the reason that those are still unresolved. It will also help in analysing the resolution process and methods adapted to come to a solution. Thus information from multiple sources will support to come to a conclusion and provide recommendations so that repeatable issues can be prevented.
Qualitative and Quantitative analysis are the commonly used techniques. The choice of the analysis methods are based on the nature and objective of the study.
The purpose of qualitative analysis is to provide completed and detail description. It incorporate subjective data to be studied and analysed from different perspectives. The technique provide insight into problem. In addition to this, it also supports in generation of ideas and hypothesis for further study.
On the other hand, quantitative research is associated with quantification of data. It deal with huge amount of numbers and figures obtained as part of the data collection process. The method allows generalization of results from the sample taken for study. The results represent outlook of the entire population of interest and measurement of incidence of opinions and views. The objective of using quantitative analysis to classify the features, count them and develop statistical model to explain the observations. Many a times in this type of analysis, researcher is aware of the outcomes of the study.
The major difference that exists between the two techniques lies in respect with the data sample, information collection and purpose of analysis and its application.
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For the present study, qualitative techniques will be used to study the data. As data collection involves multiple sources i.e. questionnaire survey and books and journal, it represent semi structured format which is suitable for the techniques used. The methods of data collection used in the study are flexible in nature and thus they can be modified and altered as per the suitability of the researcher.
The outcomes obtained in the qualitative research will be exploratory and investigative in nature. The findings are not limited to their conclusion and cannot used to be generalised. It provides an opportunity to develop understanding on the topic contributed by more relevant information. Qualitative analysis will be presented in thematic format that also included charts and graphs. Thus techniques in this analysis is essential in providing a broad base of insight in which there are more options left to be explored and understood. Qualitative analysis generates rich, detailed and valid process data that aims to further contribute in understanding of the context.
For the present study, questionnaire data obtained will help in identifying the most frequent and critical issues between labor and management. The secondary will help in comparing data with the earlier research papers and their findings. Data comparison will help in enhancing the knowledge about the types of issues present in the industry. In depth understanding of the data also help to identify the reason for the occurrence of such kind of issues. In addition to this, the effectiveness of process and methods used by the mediators and legislations in resolving and preventing the conflict to reoccur.
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