Comparative Employee Relations

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In this essay report, the significance of trade unions in the United States of America alongside Australia is discussed. Some of the similarities and differences in the trade unionist activities in terms of the impact on ethnicity and gender are also well elaborated. In the report, it is evident that the union density in these Australia compared to the United States is quite different and this has been the case for the last three decades or so. On the other hand, there are quite a number of similarities that do exist. Besides, there is a tendency of constant difference in union wages in the United States compared to Australia whereby the latter has marginally raised its wages (Bean1994). In addition, both unions in Australia and the United States have incessantly towards reducing the duration of working. However, the impact of this initiative is quite negligible in the United States. Moreover, the characteristics of union members in both Australia and the United States are important in this discussion. The degree of impact which is left by the ethnic factor is important. In the same vein, the feminization of trade unions takes a center stage and cannot be ignored at all.

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Main factors

The post-war era has witnessed a relative decline of trade union activities in the United States of America. The massive revolution of both the political and economic way of life troubled union activities both in the United States and Australia during the 1970s. The great economic depression of the 1970s worsened wage-earning levels which later witnessed the serious loss of jobs in both Australia and the United States. Not so much was ethnic discrimination was experienced in Australia as was the case in the United States. As much as trade unions were mandated to fight for the right of workers, there was a blatant attempt to favor certain racial groups while others suffered real wage reductions courtesy of the unions. As unions became less popular, most workers opted for the conventional non-unionized workforce who dominated the United States of America workforce as well as the Australian workers. In both countries, there was a general increase I the number of women who were in both part-time and full-time employment and the feminization of trade unions began to take shape in both of these countries.

The decline of union activities in the U.S during the post-war era is mainly attributed to the impact which was generated by unrelenting negative ethnic relations which existed among the various ethnic groups (Hall &Soskice 2001). The worst affected were the so-called minor groups who were marginalized both politically and economically while at the same time they were the main workforce. Other reasons have been advanced to explain why the trade union movements retracted in the U.S compared to Australia. For instance, lack of sufficient law enforcement was attributed to this decline. This can however be linked to the impact which was brought about by soaring ethnic relations. This poor relation has continued to promote a lack of fairness in the union activities among the United States of America workforce. Moreover, the minority groups are less likely to belong to members of official trade unions as compared to dominant races in both countries (Verma, Lansbury &Kochan1991).

Identifying similarities and differences

The effective nature of these trade unions is greatly governed by gender and the type of race to which union members belong. This is a common feature both in Australia and the United States. However, some difference arises when minority women are more aggressive when it comes to union participation compared to their minority male counterparts. This is a distinguishing feature between the trade union movement in Australia and the United States. After the first and second world Wars, the indigenous Australians were greatly supported by trade Union movements, a phenomenon that has existed for several decades. This open racial segregation against non-Australians had a negative impact on the strength of the unions in Australia years later. It created an environment of discrimination and mistrust.

There are business responsibilities that are central to the task of managing a workforce that has got a universal representation for its needs. The contemporary business organizations in Australia have witnessed the dire need of involving workers in all grades within a firm in the tasking process of decision making so that there is harmony between the top business managers and the rest of the workforce (Hollinshead & Leat1995). In retrospect, the challenge has been evaluated to be greater in a setup where employees are in an organized union. This has definitely altered the conventional roles of business managers who were basically professionals bound with the duty to issue orders to workers. However, indigenous Australians are at the helm of the trade unionist movement thereby sidelining the other ethnic groups. The modern management system in a unionized workforce is rather consultative.

Moreover, due to the prevalence of unionized workforces in many organizations, adept business managers have realized the fact that pursuing the conventional dictatorial and enemy-like relationships with workers does not yield any positive fruits as far as the global business economy is concerned. Managers have realized that the best way to improve an organization’s output is by harnessing small harmonious teams and groups within an organization which is then assisted out on how to cooperate and meet certain targets within a set time. As a result, management strategies have greatly changed with the existence of a unionized workforce which requires constant consultation to ensure each individual need is well catered for.

Another significant impact of the ethnically driven unionized workforce in the United States is that it has led to the active participation of minority roles which primarily aims at making the workers happy and contended with their line of duty. This has been used to avert crises that may emanate out of employee dissatisfaction in the event of poor or sometimes misunderstood policies (Elger & Smith1994). Therefore, the roles of managers in organizations where unionized workforces prevail have greatly been changed due to the incessant demands by workers. Nevertheless; this seeming control of managerial roles by unionized workforces has not been productive when exercised beyond a certain level. There are instances when certain demands from unionized workers may lack realism. In such cases, the managerial leadership roles have to come in handy to expound such demands and how negatively they can affect the operations of a firm.

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Human resource managers have assumed new responsibilities in the United States. These new duties are a result of unionized workforces which are equally demanding in terms of how their issues are handled at the managerial level (Poole1986). At the point of compliance professional managers agree to work with collaborative teams in an organization, the demanding and remarkable roles of the latter will be going down with time. This is true in the case whereby these business managers adopt and implement an open administrative system that encompasses a multilateral approach to issues affecting workers. This will also assist managers to focus on the key goals of the organization.

In the course of developing a harmonious working environment, managers have had to improve on their communication skills t be able to effectively deliver the desired messages to workers. New forms of business studies that target business managers have been developed in order to effectively cater to this communication need.

The similarities and differences do exist in a unionized workforce both on the side of the management and workers in these countries. The prevalence of unions at workplaces has made managements develop clear and concise rules and regulations that will enable them to harmonize the managerial procedures alongside fulfilling the needs of the workforce. The intense pressure which sometimes emanates from the unions themselves will trigger the management team to draft guidelines that will act as action points towards meeting the organizational goals and long-term objectives. This understanding may not be feasible in the Australian labor environment where the employer is the only architect in the bargaining process. When management practices lead to increased output from an organization, the management will equally enjoy higher wages due to their superb performance. This is definitely good news to the management team which obviously are faced with day-to-day duties of making sure that the firms they are managing meet the market goals.

When embroiled in negotiations with a team from a unionized workforce, it is generally more economical than engaging a single individual in such negotiations as seen in some collective bargains which have been facilitated in both Australia and the United States of America. Hence, addressing the concerns of a unionized workforce is easier because the needs of a larger group are catered for by a common approach. This can save an organization both time and finical resources (Morley Gunnigle & Collings 2006). However, the main impediment in both of these countries in regard to labor negotiations is the presence of the race factor which attempts to work against union activities.

This is indeed one of the reasons why these trade unions perform dismally especially in the United States of America. The situation is not any better in Australia whereby there is a lot of doubt which is cast upon the performance of trade unions. Some believe that trade unions are less powerful perhaps due to the feminine leadership attachment (Whitley1994).

As much as the process of management of an organization alongside its workers requires understanding and flexibility, there are some instances when trade unions are not ready to change their views or demands when articulating certain working issues involving employees. In the United States, the concept of ethnicity is basic to management and can negatively impact the overall running of a firm. In cases where there are no unanimous decisions reached, industrial actions may follow and such detestable acts such as strikes can demean the gains which have already been achieved by the organization over time.

Alternatives to address specific benefits/problems

Apart from resorting to the formation of unions to assist in the resolution of labor conflicts, there are other open channels that employees in Australia have utilized to address their work-specific concerns. For instance, If employees enter into a contractual agreement with the business organization they are working with, it will assist in creating a harmonious working environment in which both the employer and workers clearly understand their rights, roles, and privileges as pertains to the terms of agreement contained in the contract. This alternative to the formation of a unionized workforce can assist eliminate the dispute gap which usually exists between employers and unions representing workers.

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In order to address specific benefits that workers are entitled to, managers in a business organization have the option of running an open system of administration (Brewster &Tyson 1991). This can be achieved in various ways. For instance, it is the noble responsibility of firm managers to ensure fair treatment of workers at all times. Usually, the main cause of concern that leads to the formation of a unionized workforce is the inability of employers to build a trustworthy and fair working environment for their employees. It is therefore upon the employer and the employees to adopt alternative measures which can adequately address arising labor disputes.

Impact on business operations

A trade union has the role of fighting for the rights of employees in an organization. The championing for the welfare of employees can take different forms some of which may be disastrous to the business operations of a company. This type of workforce often guarantees higher wages which on the negative end creates a highly competitive labor environment. If the labor market becomes extremely at the center of attention, it can create an acute lack of employment because firms will only hire a specific number of employees who will be paid highly at the expense of many others not employed. In addition, the coercive method used by the unionized workforce to demand better wage deals can grossly impact the day-to-day business operations of a firm (Munck 2002). For example, there are several instances when unionized workforces have engaged business operations in industrial actions through strikes and go-slows. Such acts mainly witnessed in the organized labor force can act as catalysts in pushing back the operations of a business through loss in working hours. This feature is common in both the Australian and U.S trade unions. Racism seems not to be impacting heavily on this.

In the same vein, a unionized workforce in a firm with a minimal number of employees who are receiving optimum wages can trigger a phenomenon called market wage imbalance where the individual average wage paid out to workers is above the equilibrium value which can be sustained by the market at present. This will enrich workers on one side while at the same time fleecing the organization they are working for. It will equally be cumbered some for the business operation to effectively meet its financial obligation like the purchase of raw materials if it is a manufacturing firm and so on (Upchurch1999).

Government or industry regulation

A trade union can sometimes be considered to be harmful to the operation of business activity. Certain activities can be conducted by unionized workforces that can be detrimental to the success and well-being of an organization. This is why there is a portion of professionals who may not be liable and fit to form or belong in a unionized workforce (Hyman & Ferner1994). Moreover, governments have put in place various rules and regulations which govern the operation f these trade unions so that they do not go overboard in their quest for rights and privileges. However, a critical look at the Australian-U.S. case reveals a lot in terms of disparity that is being experienced in the activities of the trade unions. For example, the role being played by these unions in the United States is highly valued by the union members being served. This is as a result of the ethnic factor whereby most of the majority whites are union members implying that their representation is up to date. This is a different case in Australia in which the subject of ethnicity is not given much attention regarding trade unionism.

Similarly, there are those professional officers who serve mainly the public sector whose services are highly needed at any given time (Eaton 2000). A case example is the police officers who are charged with the duty of maintaining law and order. If such a group will go on strike for whatever reason, it can be disastrous to the nation at large. On the same note, firefighters and other emergency responders at the scene of accidents are an equally sensitive group of professionals who may not be allowed by law to be part of an organized workforce represented by a union. On this account, a unionized workforce can lead to a catastrophic outcome if such sensitive areas of operation are affected by go-slows, strikes, and other forms of labor struggles. The worst challenge is faced by both the government and departments which host such important services is the strategy that can be used to resolve labor disputes without necessarily engaging in a tuff war which can lead to heavy losses of both human life and valued property. Moreover, the worst managerial challenges emanate from such cases whereby managers have to resolve such challenges without causing any harm. Unionized workforces which comprise very demanding sections of the public service are faced with tough decisions to make whenever such eventualities come on their way like the Japanese managers (Sako &Sato 1997).

Privately run firms and business organizations are purely focused on making higher gains. They are therefore liable beyond any reasonable doubt to provide the best for their employees. In such a case, the formation of trade unions to foresee the interests, welfare, and fair treatment of workers is a welcome idea (Roosevelt, Huiskamp & Hoof1995). This is a common approach that is seen in both countries. Indeed, most private firms have had to go through tussles with workers’ unions which have been on the bargain side of the employee. Needless to say, a unionized workforce in the private sector is undoubtedly a welcome idea but not in some public sector departments which are highly sensitive to be left at the mercy of labor disputes.

Issues governing the regulation of trade unions in the public sector have been streamlined a great deal in the United States so that the issue of racism and its negative impacts at the workplace is alleviated because different situations present themselves differently when both the public and private sector jobs are brought into the discussion board. Although the public sector still has some level of unionized workforce in some selected departments, managers in these departments find themselves in a fix at times when they cannot enforce certain laws and regulations regarding work ethics due to poor incentive and reward programs of employees compared to the private sector where such values are keen issues in the managerial agenda (Bamber, Lansbury & Wailes 2004). Meanwhile, a closer look at the situation of the labor situation in both the United States and Australia depicts that ethnicity has downtrodden the very power which these trade unions had from the beginning. Unfortunately, laws governing the regulation of trade unions have been applied selectively in both countries whenever minority traces seek equity in representation.

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Reference List

Bamber G, Lansbury R and Wailes N (2004). International and Comparative Employment Relations (4th ed), London: Sage.

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Eaton J (2000). Comparative Employment Relations. Cambridge: Polity Press

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Hall P. and Soskice D (2001). Varieties of Capitalism: the institutional foundations of comparative advantage, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hollinshead, G and Leat M (1995). Human Resource Management: An International and Comparative Perspective, London: Pitman Publishing.

Hyman, R and Ferner A. (1994). New Frontiers in European Industrial Relations Systems (ed), Oxford: Blackwell.

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Sako M and Sato H.(1997). Japanese Labour and Management in Transition: Diversity, Flexibility and Participation (ed), London: Routledge.

Upchurch M (1999). The State and Globalization: comparative studies of labour and capital in national economies. London: Mansell.

Verma, A, Lansbury, R and. Kochan T (1991). Employment Relations in Asian Economies, London: Routledge.

Whitley R (1994). European Business Systems: firms and markets in their national contexts, London: Sage.

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