Industrial Relations

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INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS PERSPECTIVES

UNITARY THEORY

Workplace “has one source of authority and one source of loyalty” (Fox 1996: p. 3)

- Dunlop (1958) argues that in a unitary theory, work organizations are integrated institutions with workers and management working in harmony.

- Thus no conflict thesis is a dubious integration. It thrives on assumptions that all workers identify not only with the aims of the enterprise but also with the operating methods (Seifert 1992).

- It is a theory that provides shelter to management. To the management, the assumption of single authority in the workplace enables them (management) supremacy, to be seen as being legitimate. The organized or unorganized conflict generated by the workers is seen as lacking legitimacy. The facts of these views are integrated in both the historical, legal, ideological and economic arguments about the right to manage.

- In this regard, workers are treated as a primary responsibility of the management. The assumption of instructions and orders flowing from the top, while a loyal workforce just obey (Fox 1974) are the basis for the managerial unilateral job regulations.

- Emphasis in individuals who enter into a “free” contract of employment is a key characteristic of unitarism. The same can be said for Trade Unions in organizations.

- TUs are views as outsiders intruding in disruptive consequences into an otherwise naturally close, smooth and unified workplace. - The assumption is that, the TU is concerned with agitation that promotes bad feeling. As a result, the union is seen as raising unreal grievances, that are a figment of imagination leading to confusion and fiction as a consequence, this impinges on management which otherwise is assumed to hold and save the interests of everyone, more so the workers.

- (IBID) In any case when differences occur, communication becomes a victim, as assumptions suggest that things can get better when in the finality, the message “reaches home”. The HRM debate blends well with this theory as the author contains that it (HRM) is the restoration of the ‘right to manage’, which is always sought in a subtle way. This is evidenced by the advancement of notion like ‘teams’ but at the same time individual performance rewards being provided. This reflects a classical that inherent contradiction in HRM, between individualism and teamwork. (Legge 1989) By implication, workers cannot question the authority of management. It is a strong “propaganda” that purports the non existence of “two sides” the “them and us”.

To proponents of Unitarism, this is an ideal “distribution” one sided though, of power within the workplace, a worker is treated like a cost to be minimized, the worker is also treated like a machine which could be used while productive and scrapped when non-functioning.

PLURALIST

- Built around the notions of concessions and compromise between competing groups, pluralists argued that Industrial Relations are a more complicated matter, requiring the art of balancing. For the pluralists, apologists, the workplace is seen as a coalition of individuals and groups. These have “their own aspirations and perceptions which they naturally see as valued and which e.g. seek to express in action”. Ross as quoted by Fox 1974: 260) - The argument goes that from organization of competing interests will develop a stable “negotiated order” since negotiation is a deliberate process attempting to reach a jointly acceptable settlement (Walton & Mckasse : 1965).

- After all, the Webbs had noted that it was not as naively could be imagined by old fashioned capitalist in demanding the right to manage in his own way (1902 P822). To this end, Fox reckons that the best chance for management to control lies in their being ready to share that control in the group they are seeking to manage.

- The pluralists argue that...
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