Module outline

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Note to students: this is still work in progress. Its intention is just to guide you in your studies. It is required that you engage in wide research in the subject in order to be able to fully comprehend the many basic elements covered.

The Module: -

  • Explores on the nature of the employment relationship,

  • Examines the different perspectives in analyzing Industrial Relations,

  • Examines the different perspectives in analyzing the worker problem,

  • Examines the roles of various parties in Industrial Relations,

  • Explores on Industrial Relations dynamics in the 21st Century and key issues driving change in Industrial Relations.


Background to the study of Industrial Relations

  1. Academic Study of I.R

- I.R defined

- The growth of I.R as a discipline.

2 The Employment Relationship

- Nature of the Employment Relationship,

- The Employment Contract (origins, types, elements etc.)

- The Concepts of Power, Conflict and Job Regulation.

- Implications on the study of Industrial Relations

  1. Industrial Relations Perspectives

- Unitarism

- Pluralism

- Marxism


4 Management

- Management defined

- Historical features of labour management

- The Managerial Prerogative

- Management Styles in Employment R/ships

- Management Control Strategies

- Contemporary issues in Management

- Management and Employers Organisations

5 Trade Unions

- Trade Unions defined

- Types of unions

- The rise and fall of trade unions

- Trade union Structure and democracy

- Contemporary Issues on Trade Unions

6 The State in Industrial Relations

- Forms of State Interventions

- The changing and future role of the State in Industrial Relations


7 Negotiations

  • Purpose of Negotiation

  • Types of Negotiation

  • Negotiation Strategies

8. Collective Bargaining

- Definition

- Types of Bargaining

- Functions of Bargaining

- Management and Trade Union roles in bargaining

- Contemporary issues in Collective Bargaining

9. Industrial Action

- Functions

- Forms of Industrial Relations

- The Legal Framework of Industrial Action in Zimbabwe

10. I. R dynamics in Zimbabwe

- A historical account of Industrial Relations in Zimbabwe

- Organisation of workers


  • Globalisation

  • Technology

  • Flexibility

  • The new H.R Agenda

  • Social Dialogue

  • The future of Industrial Relations and the study of HRM in Zimbabwe

Defining Industrial Relations

  • Difficulties in defining the subject with precision

  • Just like any other discipline, Industrial relations founded in the history of other disciplines including economics, sociology, psychology, history, engineering, law, religion, etc.

  • Attempts made to define Industrial Relations included the works of Flanders (1968) on Job Regulation, Dunlop (1963) with systems approach, Bains and Clegg, Salamon 91998,2000), Hyman (1975), Bendix (2003) etc.

  • Today Industrial Relations can be identified as Work Relations, Employee Relations, Employment Relations, and Labour Relations among others.

  • Some of the definitions include the following:

  • “…the study of industrial relations is the study of institutions of job regulation…” Flanders (1968)

  • “…industrial relations refer to the study of processes of control over work relations…” Hyman (1975)

  • “…Employee relations are the contemporary term for the field of study which analyses how the employment relationship between employers and employees is organized and practiced…’ Farnham (2002)

  • “…Employee Relations are a set of human resource practices that seek to secure commitment and compliance with organisational goals and standards through the involvement of employees in decision making and by managerial disciplinary action…” Bratton and Gold (2003)

  • “…the collective aspects of relationships between the workforce and management...” Blyton & Turnbull (1994)

  • “…The study of rules governing employment together with the ways in which rules are changed interpreted and administered…” Clegg (1979)

The Employment Relationship

  • This is an exchange relationship in the sense that the parties exchange or trade specific tangible and intangible elements.

  • With regards to the tangibles, the employee offers his/her labour (from a hard point of view) which includes his/her skills, knowledge, abilities and experience among other things in return for a salary/ wage and the associated benefits.

  • At the level of the intangibles, the employee offers their commitment, loyalty, subordination (from a soft point of view) with the expectation that the employer will offer job security (or in its absence, employability security), recognition, job satisfaction, opportunities for career advancement etc.

  • This relationship may also be understood as the bedrock of conflicts because the divergence of interests between the parties to it.

  • It is generally argued that the employer is much concerned with issues of controlling the relationship, whilst the employee is concerned with care, which, at a psychological level become the hub of industrial conflicts.

  • Employer-worker relations are organised principally around the contract of employment

  • This forms the background of the study of industrial relations

  • A contract of employment begins when one party (the employee) offers to render their services of a defined nature in return for a fixed, or ascertainable form of remuneration, and the other party (employer) offers to remunerate for services rendered.

  • Contract may or may not be written

  • Breach of contract can lead to unfair labour practice or unfair dismissal

  • Express agreement – are terms which are spelled out

  • Implied will result from what is understood to have been the intention of the parties. This could be from the fact that its so obvious that it need not be stated

Terms implied in every contract (Pitt, 2000)

  • To pay wages if an employee is available for work

  • To provide work in certain specified circumstances

  • To co operate with employee in that employee will not be treated in a manner that will destroy mutual trust and confidence

  • To take reasonable care for the reasonable care for the health and safety of the employee

  • To be faithful to the employer and not engage in actions that cause conflict of interest

  • To take reasonable care in the performance of his or he duties

  • In the absence of express terms, “custom and practice” may help to define what constitutes the employment contracts. Custom and practice has to be reasonable – reasonable by fitting the “norms” of the industry in question

  • Custom and practice should not be interpreted in a substantially different ways by different people

  • Should be well known by all those whom it relates

Express Terms of a Contract

  • These are enunciated in Section 12 of the Labour Act (Duration, Particulars and Termination of Employment Contracts)

  • Here it is provided that:

“…Every person who is employed by or working for any other person and receiving or entitled to receive any remuneration in respect of such employment or work shall be deemed to be under a contract of employment with that other person, whether such contract is reduced to writing or not…” (refer to the Labour Act)
Sources of Contract Terms

  • Minimum Statutory Standards

  • Express statements of the parties to the contracts

  • Collective agreements

  • Organizational rules

  • Custom and practice

  • Common law and duties of employers

  • Common law and duties of employees

Psychological Contract

  • It refers to the expectations of the employer and the employee that operate in addition to the formal contract of employment

  • It has been defined by Rousseau (1994) cited by Hiltrop (1995:287) as “the understanding people have regarding the commitments made between themselves and their organisation.”

  • It therefore, is concerned with each party’s perception of what the other party to the employment relationship owes them over and above that which may be specified in the contract of employment.

  • The contract is not clear as to the content and because it is based on perceptions, it is not written down

  • Mullins (1996) points out that there is a continuous process of balancing and explicit and implicit bargaining over the contract content and more over that the individual and the organisation may not be aware consciously of the contract “terms”. However, these terms affect their behavior and relationship.

  • One of the aspects of the psychological contract that has gained prominence over the years is the traditional employee perception that the organisation promises a “job for life” (examples) in return for employee loyalty and commitment. This is still practiced if we take the case of local government, civil service and parastatals.

  • Some jobs are fast changing in terms of nature and content hence driving a twist of the psychological contract for example, the changes in the banking sector. The coming in of IT to replace people has shifted people’s expectations and hence the psychological contract.

  • Organisations now need managers that are less experienced, more commercially aware, more energetic, and they could be easily obtained, and retained, more cheaply than their predecessors.

  • Research reviewed by Sparrow (2000) highlights the changing nature of the organisation of work and its implications on the psychological contract, e.g., experiences of redundancy, for example, are often viewed by the older workers as a violation of the psychological contract, and are significantly related to their adoption of personal responsibility for their career development (Sparrow 2000) also issues of termination or grows of incapacitation, etc.

  • Herriot and Pemberton (1995) argued that the psychological contract has moved from one that is relational- based on mutual trust and commitment- to one that is transactional- based upon mutual instrumentality of the work- effort- reward bargain.

  • It demonstrates a shift from focus on job security on the part of employees towards employability security.

  • According to Hiltrop (1995:289) in the new type of psychological contract “there is no job security. The employee will be employed as long as s (he) adds value to the organisation and is personally responsible for finding new ways to add value. In return the employee has the right to demand interesting and important work has the freedom and resources to perform it well, receives extra pay that reflect his/her contribution and gets the experience and training needed to be employable here or elsewhere.”

Characteristics of the ‘old’ and new psychological contract




Focus of the E/R

Security and long term careers in the company

Employability to cope with changes with this and future employment


Structured and predictable

Flexible and unpredictable




Underlying principle

Influenced by tradition

Drive by market forces

Intended output

Loyalty and commitment

Value added

Employer’s key responsibility

Fair pay for a fair day’s work

High pay for job performance

Employee’s key responsibility

Good performance in present job

Making a difference to the organisation

Employer’s key input

Stable income and career

Opportunities for self development

Employee’s key input

Time and effort

Knowledge and skills

Source- Hiltrop (1995:290)

  • So the contract is based on the theory of reciprocation/ exchange theory by Cox and Parkinson (1999), where individuals make an investment with expectations that an appropriate reward will be forthcoming.

1. Discuss the implications for the conduct of the employment relationship when the psychological contract is broken.

2. How may you as a Human Resource Manager contribute towards the management of a psychological contract in a company which is in the FMCG industry

Industrial Relations Perspectives (Fox, 1973)

  1. Unitarism

  • It assumes that an organisation is or should be, an integrated group of people with a single authority/loyalty structure, and a set of common values, interests and objectives shared by all members of the organisation.

  • The management prerogative (that is, the right for management to manage and make decisions) is regarded as legitimate and rational and accepted and any opposition to it (whether formal or informal, internal or external) is seen as irrational.

  • The underlying assumption therefore is that, the organizational system is in basic harmony and conflict is unnecessary and exceptional.

  • Conflict, when it does arise, is believed to be primarily frictional rather than structural in nature and caused by such factors as clashes of personalities within the organisation, poor communication by management of its plans and decisions, lack of understanding on the part of the employees that management decisions and actions are made for the good of all in the organisation.

  • The use of coercion (including law) is legitimate in the use of managerial power. In other words, management does not peceive a need given the legitimacy of its prerogative, to obtain consent of employees to decisions or changes.

  • At the same time, management concentrate on a Human Relations Approach improving interpersonal relations and communications within the organisation) or make appeals to the loyalty of employees.

  • Trade unions are seen to be an historical anachronism, and with the coming of HRM, are no longer necessary to protect employees interests.

  • Even though management are forced to accept the existence of trade unions in the determination of terms and conditions of employment (market leaders), they are certainly reluctant to concede any role for trade unions in the exercise of authority and decision making and decision making within the organisation (managerial relations).

  • They (trade unions) are most likely to be seen as little more than a political power vehicle used by militant minority in order to subvert the existing and legitimate political, social and economic structure of society


  • The Unitarist system has one source of authority and one focus of loyalty, which is why it suggests the team analogy

  • What pattern of behaviour do we expect from members of a successful and healthily functioning team?

  • We expect then to strive jointly towards a common objective, each pulling his weight to the best of their ability (tits out).

  • Each accepts his place and function gladly, following the leadership of one so appointed.

  • There are no opposition groups/functions, and therefore no rival leaders within the team.

  • Nor are they any outside it, the team stands alone, its members owing allegiance to their own leaders but not o others.

  • If the members have an obligation of loyalty towards the leaders, the obligation is reciprocated, for it is the duty of the leader to act in such ways as to inspire the loyalty he demands.

  • Morale and success are closely connected and rest heavily upon personal relationships.

  • Most of us will agree that the unitary perspective represents a vision of what industry ought to be like which is widespread among employers, top managers and substantial sections of outside public opinionThe vision is closest to a professional football team, for her, combined with the team structure and its associated loyalties; one finds a substantial measure of managerial prerogative at the top in the persons of the manager, trainer or board members.

  • Team spirit and undivided management authority co-exist for the benefit of all.

  1. Pluralism

  • The perspective views society as being post-capitalist in nature, a relatively wide distribution of authority and power within the society, a separation of ownership from management, a separation, acceptance and institutionalization of political and industrial conflict.

  • Organisations are viewed as coalition of individuals with contrasting interests, objectives and leadership. According to Fox (1973), the organisation is multi-structured and competitive in terms of groupings, leadership, authority and loyalty and this gives rise to a complex of tensions and competing claims which have to be managed in the interests of maintaining a viable collaborative structure.

  • Conflict is perceived to be both rational and inevitable. It results from individual and organizational factors (structurally determined) and different roles of managerial and employee groups. (Management objectives include efficiency, productivity and profitability whilst for employees working conditions, better pay, job and employability securities are crucial).

  • Because of such divergence of interests, the issue of power and authority to control the production process become fundamental. The resolution of conflict is characterized by the need to establish acceptable procedures and institutions which achieve collaboration through comprehensive, codified systems and negotiated regulation.

  • There has to be an acceptance of the need for shared decision making, the legitimacy of management’s role is not automatic but must be sought by and maintained by management itself ‘management by consent” rather than “management by right”.

  • Trade unions are seen to provide a countervailing power of management and therefore are seen as legitimate.

  • Such legitimacy, according to Fox (ibid) is founded not just on industrial power or management acceptance, but on social values which recognize the right of interest groups to combine and have an effective voice in their own destiny.

  1. Marxism

  • Concentrates on the nature of the capitalist society surrounding organisations, where Hyman (1975) argues, “the production system is privately owned…., profit is the key influence on Company policy…., and control over production is enforced downwards by the owner’s managerial agents…”

  • Marxist general theory argues that: (1) class/group conflict is the source of societal change, without it, the society will stagnate (2) class conflict arises primarily from the disparity in the distribution of, and access to, economic power within society – the principal disparity being between those who own capital and those who supply their labour (3) the nature of the society’s social and political institutions is derived from this economic disparity and reinforces the position of the dominant establishment group, for example, through differential access to education, the media, employment in government and other establishment bodies.

  • Social and political conflict in whatever form is merely an expression of the underlying economic conflict within the society.

  • It is seen as a reflection of not just organizational demands and tensions, but the economic and social divisions within society between those whose who own and manage means of production and those who have their labour for sale.

  • Therefore it is continuous, unavoidable and synonymous with political and social conflict.

  • Employers do not need to exercise their full industrial power by choosing plants and withdrawing their capital, the implicit threat that they have such power is sufficient to balance any direct collective power exercised by trade unions.

  • The social and political institutions within society supports the intrinsic position of management, employees thought eh influence of education and the mass media, become socialized into accepting the existing system and role of management.

  • An attack on the institutions of job regulation provides only a limited temporary accommodation of the inherent and fundamental divisions within capitalist based work and social structure.

  • Trade union growth becomes inevitable as a response to a system of capitalism.


  • Harbison and Myers (1959) give a general definition of management -

(i) Management as a technical resource - which refers to management as those having the functional expertise in the enterprise.

(ii) Management as a system of government, of authority - by which policy is translated into effective action.

(iii) Management as an elite group - exercising power in society via family, educational, political or professional links.

  • The planning, organizing, leading and controlling of resources to achieve organizational goals effectively and efficiently

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