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The Best Theory Of Industrial Relations

1521 words - 6 pages

The Best Theory of Industrial Relations

There are many different approaches and theories regarding industrial relations nowadays. In order to mount an opinion on which is the ‘best’ or most appropriate theory of industrial relations, each theory will have to be analyzed. The three most prevalent theories of industrial relations which exist are The Unitarist theory, The Pluralist theory and The Marxist theory. Each offers a particular perception of workplace relations and will therefore interpret such events as workplace conflict, the role of trade unions and job regulation very differently. I will examine each of these theories in turn and then formulate my own opinion regarding which is the ‘best’ or most appropriate theory.

The Unitary theory is based on the assumption that the organisation is, or should be, an integrated group of people with a single authority/loyalty structure with a set of common values, interests and objectives shared by all members of the organisation. This is expressed by Gennard and Judge (1997), who state organisations are assumed to be ‘harmonious and integrated, all employees sharing the organizational goals and working as members of one team’. Through the unitary approach it is assumed that both management and employees can achieve and satisfy their common goals (high levels of productivity, profitability, pay and job security). In the Unitarist theory management see their function as controlling and directing the workforce and see the organisation as a unitary system which has one source of authority which is itself and one source of loyalty which is the organisation. Under the unitary theory the organisation system is in basic harmony and any opposition to or conflict with management is regarded as ‘both unnecessary and exceptional’, (Salamon, 1992). As pointed out by (Gunnigle, McMahon and Fitzgerald, 2004), the existence of conflict is not perceived to be a structural occurrence within organisations. However when conflict does arise, it can be the result of breakdowns in communication, clashes in personalities within the organisation or by ‘troublemakers’. As conflict is abnormal and seen as irrational there is no need for trade union representation within the company. Trade unionism is regarded as a threat as trade unions are seen as an intrusion into the organisation from outside who compete with management for the loyalty of its employees. Employers are also opposed to recognizing collective bargaining initiatives as this will only diminish their decision making initiatives and responsibilities further. Under the Unitarist theory ‘under no circumstances should unions have a part to play in the exercise of authority and decision making within the organisation, as this would represent a violation of managerial prerogative’ (Ed Rose, 2001). The existence of trade unions and collective bargaining is therefore resisted wherever possible. A perfect example of where trade unionism is resisted is with...

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