Mnh203D – Labour Relations Management



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MNH203D – Labour Relations Management


Work is an inseparable part of human existence in many ways, everyone has to work in order to live, and Work is therefore a fundamental human activity.

Interaction with other people means that work is also a social activity - work gets done in the context of a group.


Employment relationship - it is a relationship which is based on an agreement between two parties: an employee (one party) who is in the service of another party, the employer.
``industrial relations''

``labour relations''

``labour relationships''

``work relations''



Defines these concepts as follows:

  • labour: physical or mental work; exertion; toil

  • industry: a branch of trade or manufacture

  • industrial: of, or relating to industry or industries

  • employee: a person employed for wages or a salary, especially at non-

  • executive level

  • employment: the act of employing or the state of being employed

  • relations: what one person or thing has to do with one another


Dunlop – based on systems perspective, based on work from various sociologists. Dunlop says that certain people act (actors = managers, workers), in specific contexts (technological characteristics, the market and distribution power of society) guided by a body of rules.

The actors establish the “rules”



The people in the system share certain ideas – this holds the system together.
Flanders - defined Industrial relations as a study of the institutions of job regulation.

Hyman – focused on the processes of Industrial relations – the study of process control over work relations – which include job regulation - Job regulation means controlling the actions and activities of jobs, for example how a job is done and who may be employed in that job

Poole's definition that ``industrial relations is a discipline concerned with the systematic study of all aspects of the employment relationship''

Bain and Clegg state that the relationship may not necessarily be only formal, but may also be informal, and the context can be either structured or unstructured. They criticised the shared ideology by Dunlop. The traditional approach focused on managing conflicts and making rules in the employment context. This is broadened to include essentially all the interests involved in getting a job done and all aspects of people at work including doing the work and distributing the rewards. They defined industrial relations as all aspects of job regulations.
The Industrial Revolution changed virtually the entire socioeconomic system or order. Society was structured in such a way that most people worked in tiny communities at familiar handwork or agricultural activities. People worked in order to make a living, but also because the work itself provided them with a functional or traditional role.

Bendix explains:- The Industrial Revolution was a social and economic convulsion (fit , seizure) it changed the economic order. Mans his working life was closely aligned to his political and religious life. The idea of earning a living, if consciously formulated, was secondary to this fulfilment of this traditional or functional role. Until the eighteenth century, the striving for gain or excess profit, as we know it, was generally regarded as highly immoral. By the year 1700 society now began to accept that man was necessarily greedy for gain, that gain was the centre of commercial activity and that no law should exist against gain. Thus the industrial era was born. It brought with it the uprooting of workingman from his traditional way of life and the birth of a disorientated class of people known as the Proletariat. Large factories were established where a mass of workers performed relatively humdrum tasks to the dictates of a single employer or owner. It stands to reason that work lost much of its meaning and that the workingman had to search for a new identity. This he later found in the working class and in membership of workers' trade unions. New relationship patterns had to be established. The depersonalisation of work and the work situation caused a division between the employer and his employees, bringing about a further polarisation between those who laboured and those who owned or managed. Many saw capitalist activity as based on the principle of keeping the poor poor, since any increase in wages would signify a concomitant cut in profits. This is a perception which, sometimes unjustifiably so, is still held by many employees today. It greatly contributes to the negative attitude many workers hold towards their employment and to the basic conflict between employer and employee. Industrial Revolution had little positive results, such as greater progress and development in all spheres and, later, a general improvement in the standard of living of all people.

The greatest impact of the Industrial Revolution is,

  • The removal of man's economic activity from his personal and social life

  • The depersonalisation of work and, consequently, of the employment relationship

  • The polarisation between the mass of employed on the one hand and the owners or managers on the other, resulting in the rise of a working class consciousness and providing the necessary impetus for the growth of trade unionism

  • The negative attitudes engendered by the new dispensation

  • The central role now played by economic activity, causing it to become the main aspect of man's life and one which impacts greatly on his personal, social and political life

  • The predominance of capitalism, being the ownership by one per- son of the``tools''of production

  • The consequential concept of ``selling labour'', leading to the disempowerment of the producers of such labour

LABOUR RELATIONS: AN INTER DISCIPLINARY AND MULTIDISCIPLINARY FIELD

Industrial relations developed into an independent field of study as a result of the Industrial Revolution.

Swanepoel, Slabbert, Erasmus and Brink (1999a) summarise industrial relations as a field of study by stating that it encompasses all aspects of people at work. The way the overall nature of this complex and interdisciplinary field is perceived will determine how specific issues and situations in the field are analysed and approached.


We refer to labour relations as an interdisciplinary field of study - Let us see what Boivin has to say about this: - We can consider industrial relations not as a basic science, but as a derived field of knowledge, where elements borrowed from many disciplines (economics, sociology, law, psychology, labour history, political science and administration) are used to study a particular series of work-related problems.



Figure 1.1 illustrates the interdisciplinary nature of labour relations as a discipline.


Figure 1.1 simply shows that labour relations can be studied as a separate discipline with clear boundaries, but also that it draws on information from other disciplines to explain phenomena which are interrelated to and arise from the employment relationship.
Then it also follows that labour relations is a multidisciplinary subject, as some aspects of labour relations can be studied from the perspective of many different disciplines.

Figure1.2 illustrates this point.


We can conclude that although labour relations must be studied as a separate field of study, using an interdisciplinary approach (in other words, by using knowledge derived from many other disciplines Hence we can actually say that labour relations can be regarded as an interdisciplinary field of study and as a multidisciplinary topic.


Q&A

Try to formulate a definition of Business Management as a field of study?

The science of business management covers functional fields such as financial management, human resource management, marketing management, purchasing and supply chain management, operations management and general management, to name but a few.


In what ways does management concern itself with aspects of the employment relationship?

Management includes activities such as planning, organising, leading and control. And all management functions and activities have one thing in common ö managers manage people. This means that the employment relationship permeates all management activities in any organisation. To put it simply, all managers must learn how to optimise the labour at their disposal and how to distribute the available rewards for labour supplied. This means that the employment relationship is indeed the cornerstone of all management activities.


Critically analyse and define the concepts ``industrial relations'', ``labour relations'' and ``employment relations''.
. explain that it is work in the context of an employment relationship that forms a central theme in all these concepts. Thus the root of industrial relations as field of study is the employment relationship.

. Industrial relations is the broad term denoting a specific field of study that is interdisciplinary (it draws on knowledge from many different disciplines such as sociology, psychology, law, etc).

. All this, however, can be linked to the employment relationship. The employment relationship comes into existence as soon as one person is employed by another. The employment relationship is not the same as employment relations. Employment relations is the new name for the field of study traditionally called industrial relations .We prefer the term ``employment relations'' because of its broader connotation, including nonindustrial employment settings and also the individual as well as collective aspects of employment.
``Labour relations is both an interdisciplinary field of study and a multidisciplinary subject.'' Discuss this statement, and indicate why you think it is right (or wrong).Use diagrammatical or visual representations to illustrate your arguments.

Labour relations can be seen as an interdisciplinary field of study. This means that labour relations is not considered as a basic science, but as a derived field of knowledge, in which elements borrowed from many disciplines (such as economics, sociology, law and psychology) are used to study a particular series of work-related problems. Labour relations can thus be viewed as a unique and separate field of study which concerns itself with a number of different but interdependent matters. This interdisciplinary nature of labour relations as a field of study is illustrated in figure 1.1 in the study guide. According to figure 1.1, labour relations can be studied as a separate and distinct discipline with boundaries, whilst borrowing knowledge from other disciplines in order to study all the phenomena that relate to and emanate from the employment relationship. Labour relations as an interdisciplinary field of study is therefore broader in scope than other disciplines or subjects such as sociology and law




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