Unionization of Employees Role in Industrial Relations

Executive Summary

Industrial relation in the 21st century has transformed from what it used to be in the 19th century. In the current society, firms are struggling to manage market competition that threatens to eliminate less competitive firms. Firms have realized that their success is always determined by the effort given by individual employees. As such, unionization of employees highly affects their operations to a great extent. Unionization creates an environment where employees and employers have mistrust towards each other. While the employer feels that unions are meant to disrupt the peaceful operations of the firm and make unrealistic demands, employees feel that unions are shield they use against the wrath of their employers. In essence, unions create a rift between the employees and employer. To ensure that both benefit, unions should be completely eliminated in workplaces.

Introduction

In the contemporary world, the issue of industrial relations has received a lot of attention both from the employers and other relevant bodies. According to Barnei (2010), many firms in the current society are trying to ensure that their employees do not join unions. This scholar says that these employers have good reasons to oppose the unionization of their employees. However, there is a section of employees who still believe strongly in the spirit of unionization.

Forming unions among employees in this country and many other countries around the world is something that is accepted by the law. The history of unions was based on the fact that some employers were treating their employees in an inhumane manner. The unions were, therefore, justified as a way of ensuring that employees worked in an environment where there are no intimidations, and their rights are respected by the relevant authorities.

However, recent researches have indicated that unions have negative consequences on the performance of employees within the firm. As Budhwar (2006) says, unions always have a negative impact on a firm, especially when their employees are actively engaged in the activities of these unions. This is because the time that would be spent doing constructive work would be spent in active politicking in the unions. The main agenda in most of the unions is always on how to ‘tame’ the employer.

The union members would spend most of their time trying to find any issue that may justify their revolution against the employer. When these unions decide on mass action, a firm will go for several hours, if not days without employees. This will affect not only the profitability of the firm but also its reputation with its customers and the public in general. This is always accompanied by the looting of the properties of the firm, besides the physical harm that may be caused to the management unit if they are within reach of the mob.

Every effort is always put by the employer to try and ensure that cases such as mass actions within their firms. The best way of doing this has been to eliminate unions within the firm. However, as Barnei (2010) says, firms have the responsibility to ensure that they operate within the law. They have to respect the labor law, and part of the labor laws in this country says that employees have the liberty to form unions. Any attempt of the employer to thwart the effort of employees to form and participate in unions will be considered as an illegal move.

This is the kind of dilemma most of the employers in the contemporary world face. They are fully aware that unionization affects the productivity of the workforce and the profitability of the firm. They also know that the best way that their employees can deliver the best of their effort is when they do not concentrate on issues of unions within their workplace. However, the law bars them for issuing a decree that unionization is illegal. This means that another approach should be found to help discourage the unionization of employees within the workplace. Employees must be convinced to avoid getting into labor unions, but instead focus on their work, and if there is any issue, it should be addressed on an individual basis with the administration. The focus of this research is how unionization can be discouraged within working places.

Problems Faced

In this research, the researcher focused on how best unionization can be discouraged among various employment places. It is true that unions affect the effectiveness of employees. However, most the scholars do not agree with this fact. In this research, the researcher mainly used the secondary sources of data from various books, journals, articles and other periodicals. However, the process of collecting this data was challenging because of the opinions held by most of the writers. In most of the secondary sources of information, there was a direct indication that they supported unionization within the workplace. Most of these authors were blind to some of the negative effect of unionization within a workplace. It was also evident that some of these authors talk from the sense of emotion. Their report were obviously biased, especially those that were once victims of victimization by employees.

Their reports were so robust in support of unions. They demonstrated how they suffered at the hands of their employers in a way that would sway the reader to support their opinions. This greatly affected the researcher’s judgment as this report was trying to support the opposite. At times the researcher felt convinced that from humanity point of view, unionization is very important (Budhwar, 2006). Another serious challenge came from the reports that were in support of lack of unions. The tone taken by some of these reports gave the impression that they were sympathizers of the oppressive rule of some of the employers. They failed to give concrete support to the idea that unions should be discouraged within the workplace as much as possible.

This, coupled with the fact that these materials were rare, gave the researcher a hard time in coming up with a concrete reason to support the argument for this research topic. The few individuals that the researcher interacted with in regard to this topic stated that unions were good in creating environment where this respect exists. Even some employees in managerial positions would say that although unions were not in favor of their current position, they considered it a way through which the weak could strongly express themselves before the weak. This forced the researcher to work extra hard in order to gather the right materials that would support the argument that unions should be discouraged within workplaces.

Literature review

According to Barucho (2006), industrial relation is increasingly becoming a delicate and controversial issue in the contemporary world. There is a sharp divide on how employees should relate to their employers in the environment. This scholar says that in the current society, the numbers of those who are in support of labor unions are just as many as those who are opposed to it. However, he is quick to note that those in opposition of labor unions are majorly at managerial levels where they consider unions a threat to their positions. Budhwar (2006) says that unions were very important some years ago. This is because of the nature of the workplace by that time. However, in the current society, the issue of unionization still remains controversial. The reasons given in support of the unions and those against make it a little complex to determine whether or not unions are appropriate within workplace.

The government of United Arabs Emirates, and other neighboring governments such as that of Saudi Arabia, has been keen on issues regarding labor laws. According to Yanou (2012), this government has been keen to monitor the activities of various employers within the country. The government has been keen to ensure that the interests of its citizens are taken care of whenever they are employed. However, government would at times find itself at crossroads, especially when it comes to managing employees. This is because as Yanou (2012) says, employers are the largest employers in every country. When employees form unions, they always bear the heaviest brunt in managing these employees especially when they turn violent when involved in mass actions.

According to Budhwar (2006), government intervention in various industries is a fact that cannot be avoided. This scholar says that the first way in which government would intervene in a given industry is by enacting laws. Firms operate in an environment where there are laws that govern how employees and employers should relate. The law specifies this relationship, and it is the responsibilities of both parties involved to follow the law closely. Another way in which government will get involved in an industry is as a policy keeper.

Through various agencies, the government would make regular evaluation on firms to ensure that they are operating within the expectations of the law. Those firms that are not operating within the law will always face the predetermined consequences. The government can also get involved in an industry as a direct investor. In all these capacities, the government will be affecting unionization in one way or the other. According to Boselie (2005), the role of the government in a country is to ensure that its citizens are leading a life that is free from slavery and full of employment opportunities.

These two important goals of the government lie in two opposite sides of the need to have unions. While the need to have a country that is free of any form of slavery would be achieved through having unions to fight for employees, having a community full of employment opportunity would be achieved by eliminating unions. Eliminating unions would mean that there will be high productivity of employees which would help expand industries and create more employment. However, this may give a window for the employers to exploit employees (Budhwar, 2006). On the other hand, unionization would defend employees and ensure that they work in a victimization free environment. However, this will encourage laziness and their productivity would be low.

This would inhibit growth of the economy, and the employment opportunities will be minimal. A solution has to be found. There must be a way out that would enable the various firms operate optimally with employees who feel motivated. There must be a redefinition of industrial relation. As Artur (2010) says, industrial relation should mean something beyond unionization. It should involve creating an environment where employees are taken care of by the employers, while giving their best in their respective positions without thinking of forming unions. The need for employees to form unions should be discouraged if the economy is to be pushed to levels where it can sustain the rising pressure.

According to Budhwar (2006), unions were developed out of the distrust that had developed between the employer and the employee. The scholar says that the unions were very popular amongst employees who felt that their employers had oppressed them for a very long time. The unions therefore, existed as a way through which employees could express their disappointments to the employer. This notion is yet to disappear amongst employees and the employers. Even in the contemporary world where team spirit is encouraged among all employees of a company, unions still signify the mistrust between the two parties. Employers view unions as avenues through which employees would express their frustration and rebellious nature towards management. On the other hand, employees feel that unions are avenues through which their interests can be addressed in a way that would force employers to respect them. This perception is still harbored by many players in the two divides.

According to Yanou (2012), the world is evolving, and issues that were relevant some years ago may not hold any serious meaning today. This scholar says that the forces that lead to creation of unions several centuries ago. This means that the perception of the unions should have changed. This scholar says that activities of unions have not changed despite the changing factors in the environment. The period of industrial revolution that led to the creation of the unions is long gone. The world is currently in a new era where the need to work as a team is witnessed in every industry around the world. Given this fact, there should be a different approach given to the idea of unionization, and industrial relation in general.

Case study

The expansion plan of GMFC is very ambitious. This firm has proven to be productive in its current market and this has necessitated the need to expand to other regions. However, the management of this firm should realize the fact that this new location has very strong unions. The United Automobile Workers is a union that did not exist in the current location where this firm operates. However, the organization is very strong in the location this firm is planning to move to. According to Venkataramana (2009), when a firm is moving to a new location, factors such as the strength of the unions should always be considered as part of formulation of strategies. This way, the management would know how to approach the issue of employees and how they can ensure that they maintain a positively motivated group of workers in the new location.

In this case, this firm already knows that there is a strong union that will always defend the right of its members whenever there is need. A further investigation has revealed that this union has always paralyzed operations of some firms in this region whenever there were complaints from their employees. This means that this management must find a way of dealing with these issues in a way that would make its operations in the new locations much easier. The management of GMFC must therefore, come up with measures that would ensure that their operations are not affected by the activities of the unions.

The location of the new plant is one of the most important issues that management of GMFC should consider. Given the nature of this firm, it is apparent that it would need engineers and technicians as their employees. This would mean that the new branch should be located where this workforce can easily be found. In most of the cases, skilled labor such as the engineers and technicians are easily accessible in towns. This new branch should therefore, be located in a town or its suburbs where it can get the right workforce. The size of the workforce should always be determined by the needs and the capacity of the firm.

Getting the right workforce may be a big challenge for this firm. According to Salamon (2000), there are so many individuals who are looking for jobs in the current society. However, very few of these people have the capacity to pass as excellent employees with the capacity to meet the expectations of the firm. Staffing strategy should therefore, take an approach that would ensure that the right employees are sourced. The management of GMFE can develop an assessment center and use such techniques as successive hurdles in screening the employees to ensure that only the best is selected. However, it is important to ensure that this is done in a manner that would not be too costly to the firm. Of importance would be to ensure that activists are not taken as employees of this firm.

Given the fact that this new location is known for strong unionization of employees, taking an employee who believes in active politicking and the spirit of activism would mean that other employees would easily be swayed to join these unions once the firm starts its operations in the new region. Getting the past history of the employee in regard to unionization may be important when checking their references and background. The management should ensure that the final applicants who are finally picked to work at the firm have no history of unionization in the previous firms where he or she worked.

Once the right workforce is selected, GMFE will have the responsibility of ensuring that they remain satisfied. A satisfied employee would rarely consider forming unions. As Rainnie (2011) says, when an employee feels that the management has taken care of his interests, his or her focus will always change from the need to enter unions, to the desire to please and satisfy the management. When given a kind gesture, they would always try to reciprocate this by working closely with the management and amongst themselves to ensure that goals and objectives of the firm are realized. Such benefits as good remuneration would always make an employee feel that he or she is indebted to the management and to the firm.

This would motivate him or her to work extra hard in order to achieve specific objectives. The management can achieve this by ensuring that its salary does not go far much lower than the average market rates in the industry. Kuhlmann (2007) suggests that another approach that this firm can take is to ensure that employees are treated on individual basis. This means that an employee would be remunerated on the basis of his or her benefit to the firm. Other non financial incentives such as assigning junior employees roles that are always considered as of value can work. This may include such issues as being part of a team that conducts induction to new recruits. This will create a sense of responsibility on the employees. This will help the firm achieve its objectives of entering this new location with success.

Discussion

Employees form a very important part of an organization. Success or failure of organization would always be dictated by the nature of employee it has. According to Blanpain and Baker (2010), no human being can be considered as being incapable of performing various tasks that could be assigned to them as long as they have knowledge of how it is done. However, the kind of an environment where such an employee is would always determine how successful that an employee would be. Human beings by nature are affected by the immediate environment. An individual who is very committed to his or her work would always be transformed when he or she is introduced into an environment where people are lazy and unconcerned of their duties. Similarly, an individual who has been considered lazy would be forced to change his or her approach when he or she gets into an environment where everyone is focused. This is what Kelly (1999) describes as organizational behavior.

Organizational behavior is always very important in defining values of a firm, and the attitude of its employees towards their tasks. Forming a positive environment where employees work as a team would help a firm form an organizational behavior that would facilitate success. It is through this that a firm can successfully fight unionization among its employees.

Unionization in the current society is not appropriate. According to the recent research that have been conducted in various places around the world, it is true that unionization lower productivity of employees. The empirical study shows that employees who are in unions tend to be lazy and very demanding. As Kaufman (2012) observes, unions may be a good avenue where employees can meet and share their experiences about their respective jobs. However, when it is used to target employers and the management units, then it beats the very need to expand the economy and increase employment rates. This scholar argues that actions of employees always have a ripple effect to various other sectors within the economy. For the economy to grow there must be growth of individuals firms that make up an industry, and all the industries that would define a country’s economy.

For there to be employment, individual firms must be able to create more employment opportunities for they are the employers. For the individual firms to create more employment opportunities, it has to be very productive in the market. The productivity of a firm will always be based on the productivity of every individual employee on the roles assigned to them. When an individual employee is productive, the team in which he or she is working with in the firm will be productive, and the ultimate result will be a productive firm. This would create a positive ripple effect on the industry and to the economy in general. It is therefore, very important to ensure that a firm ensures that individual employee is productive.

Unionization has been confirmed to affect productivity of employees in that they take most of their time addressing issues that are not relevant to them. There are cases where members of company A would be called upon to participate in a mass action because employees of company B are aggrieved, in what many unions refer to as the spirit of solidarity. This would mean that company A would suffer because company B has failed to satisfy its employees. Such are the cases that make unionization an undesirable outfit in the 21st century.

As Bhagoliwal (2011) observes, the world today has advanced in as far as the issue of human resource is concerned. As technology gets improved and replaces most of the work done through human labor, it is becoming more apparent that human labor is the most important asset within an organization. Their importance is always demonstrated when a firm is in a crisis (Biagi & Blanpain, 2003). This scholar says that when a firm is in a crisis, the crisis would always be solved by people, in this case the employees, and not the machines.

The need to eliminate unionization is justified due to a number of facts. In the current centuries, employees are no longer equal in their capacity to deliver success to a firm. The capacity of employees differs due to the level of education, experience, skills and talents amongst other qualities. These factors can never be universal. As such, the reward for the factors should be defined fairly in a way that every employee would feel that the management is fair. Employees with higher qualities would always be rewarded at a higher rate that those with lower qualities. As Barry (2011) emphasizes, the reward given to employees should be based on the value they have to the firm. Most firms have started implementing these policies. Their employees that they consider as highly valuable are offered higher salary, while they are still expected to work as a team. A good example is a football team. International football teams always pay their players according to their value in the team. Although all the players are expected to work as a team, their benefits would vary.

It therefore, beats the logic, how these players would form a union and demand to express their views as a unit. Every employee has a role to play within the firm, and this role will always define how their benefits would be. Every individual employee should therefore, addressed his or her issues in person. Bean (2004) says that the world has become very competitive and that every individual’s work will always determine whether or not a firm will be able to beat the competition.

As such, managements are giving their employees individualized attention. Employees should acknowledge this gesture by ensuring that they engage in direct dialogue with the employer. This way, each employee would have his or her issue addressed amicably on an individual basis. This will also enhance positive competition among employees. Employees would always aim at getting the best benefits from their employers by making an effort to improve their value within the firm. The overall effective will be a productive firm that will be able to give its employees the best of the benefits within the industry.

Eliminating unions means that there will be a direct and individualized attention between the employer and the employee. Issues that affect a firm will always be addressed within the firm, and cases where issues of a different firm affect another firm will be eliminated. It will be justifiable to offer benefits based on an individual’s performance as this would eliminate cases where an individual feels that his or her hard work is not appreciated. This way, the firm and its employees would benefit from this outfit. It is therefore, important that all unions are eliminated within workplaces.

Conclusion

Unionization was very popular in the early 19th century when employees felt that their rights were flawed by their employers. During this time, it was justifiable to have an organization that would fight for their rights. However, this is not the case in the current 21st century. As witnessed in the above discussion, unions have negative effect on the productivity of a firm. When employees engage in the activities of a union, it would mean that there will be limited time left for them to engage in the productive activities of the firm. Furthermore, employees who are in unions always tend to feel that they cannot be given some assignments or directives by their employers.

Managing unionized employees can be a very complex and demoralizing process, especially when the union engages directly with the activities of the firm. To the employees, unions deny them opportunity to have their issued addressed on an individualized approach. As such, it would be appropriate to have a scenario where employees address their issues on an individual basis. This will benefit the employees, their employers and the economy of a country.

References

Artur, J. (2010). Effects of human resource systems on manufacturing performance and turnover. The academy of management journal, 37(3), 670-687.

Barnei, J. (2010). Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage.” Journal of management, 17(1), 99.

Barry, M. (2011).Research Handbook of Comparative Employment Relations. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Pub.

Barucho, Y. (2006). Response rate in academic studies-A comparative analysis. Human relations, 52(4), 421-438.

Bean, R. (2004). Comparative industrial relations: An introduction to cross-national perspectives. London: Thomson Learning.

Bhagoliwal, T. N. (2011). Industrial relations. Agra: Bhawan.

Biagi, M., & Blanpain, R. (2003).Changing industrial relations and modernization of labor law: Liber amicorum in honor of professor Marco Biagi. The Hague: Kluwer Law International.

Blanpain, R., & Baker, J. (2010).Comparative labor law and industrial relations in industrialized market economies. Alphen: Kluwer Law International.

Boselie, P. (2005). Commonalities and contradictions in HRM and performance research. Human Resource Management Journal, 15(3): 67-94.

Budhwar, P. (2006). Rethinking comparative and cross-national human resource management research. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 12(3), 497-515.

Kaufman, B. E. (2012). The origins & evolution of the field of industrial relations in the United States. Ithaca: ILR Press.

Kelly, D. (1999). Researching industrial relations. Leichardt: Federation Press.

Kuhlmann, S. (2007).Industrial relations. Copenhagen: The Ministry of Labour, International Relations Division.

Rainnie, A. (2011). Industrial relations in small firms: Small isn’t beautiful. London: Routledge.

Salamon, M. (2000).Industrial relations: Theory and practice. Harlow: Financial Times Prentice Hall.

Venkataramana, P. (2009). Industrial relations. New Delhi: A.P.H. Publishers.

Yanou, M. A. (2012). Labour law: Principles & practice in Cameroon. Mankon: Langaa Research & Publishing CIG.