NATURE AND ROLE OF EMPLOYEE RELATIONS.

NATURE AND ROLE OF EMPLOYEE RELATIONS.

Definition Of Terms Commonly Used In This Unit
i) Industrial Relations: is the study of job regulation, the making and administering of the rules which regulate employment relationships regardless of whether these are seen as being formal or informal, structured or unstructured thereby raising the fundamental question of who regulates, what, how etc
– The above definition stresses the political nature of industrial relations phenomenon.
– Industrial relations activities are interested in the creation of wealth, distribution of income and control over decisions i.e. who gets what, how and when
– Industrial relations is an important supervisory and managerial activity requiring knowledge and skills to create the right organizational culture
– Its growth is due to many factors;
a) The power of trade unions
b) Motivating employees
c) Industrial democracy
d) Sociological, education and political changes
e) Larger corporations
– Industrial relations can be regarded as a system or web of rules regulating employment and the ways in which people behave at work. The systems theory of industrial relations, as propounded by Dunlop (1958) states that the role of the system is to produce the regulations and procedural rules which govern how much is distributed in the bargaining process and how the parties involved, or the ‘actors’ in the industrial relations scene, relate to one another.
– The system is expressed in many more or less formal or informal guises, in trade union regulations, in collective agreements and arbitration awards, in decisions, and in occupied custom and practice.
– The rules may be defined and coherent or ill-defined and incoherent. Rules are therefore meant to define the status quo of the parties involved
– Hence, in this case industrial relations is a normative system where a norm can be seen as a rule, a standard, or a pattern for action which is generally accepted or agreed as the basis upon which the parties concerned should operate.
ii) Employee relations – consist of the approaches and methods adopted by employers to deal with employees either through trade unions and/ or directly.

– They will be based on the organization articulated or implied employee relations policies, objectives and strategies, industrial relations processes aspects of employee relations i.e. dealing between employers and trade unions.
iii) Labour relations – represent the relationship that exists between the employer and employee in an industrial undertaking.
iv) Employee – means a person who has entered into or works under contract with an employer, whether the contract is for manual labour, clerical work or otherwise, i.e. express on implied, oral or in writing and whether it is a contract of service or apprenticeship or a contract personally to execute any work
v) Employees association – means an association or combination whether temporary or permanent of more than six employees, which has as its principal purpose the regulation of relations between such employees and their employer or between such employees amongst themselves
vi) Employees organization – means an association or combination, whether temporary or permanent, of more than six employees who work for different employers, which has as its principals purposes the regulations of relations between such employees amongst themselves.
vii) Executive – means the body, by whatever name called, to which the management of affairs of a trade union is entrusted, and includes the chairman, the secretary and the treasurer of any trade union.
viii) Staff association – means an association or combinations, whether temporary or permanent, of more than six employees employed in a civilian capacity under the government or a local authority or authorities, the principal object of which is the regulation of the relations between such employees and the government or such local authority or local authorities or between such employees amongst themselves.
ix) Employer – Includes the Government and any public or local government authority.
x) Organization – Includes a trade union and federation.
xi) Federation – Means a trade union which is itself an association or combination of trade unions.
xii) Industrial court – means the court established under section 14 (Trade Disputes Cap 234).
xiii) Redundancy means the loss of employment, occupation, job or career by involuntary means through no fault of an employee involving termination of employment at the initiative of the employer where the services of an employee are superfluous, and the practices commonly known as the abolition of office, job or occupation and loss of employment due to the Kenyanisation of a business; but it does not include any such loss of employment by a domestic servant.
xiv) Strike – means the ceasation of work by a body of persons employed in any trade or industry acting in a combination or a concerted refusal, or a refusal under a common understanding of any number of persons who are, or have been so employed, to continue to work or accept employment and includes any

interruption or slowing down of work by any number of persons employed in any trade or industry acting in concert or under a common understanding (including any action commonly known as “sit down strike or go slow”)
xv) “Lock out” – means the closing of a place of employment or the suspension of work, or the refusal by an employer to continue to employ any number of persons employed by him in consequence of a dispute, done not with the intention of finally determining employment but with a view to compelling those persons, or to aid another employer in compelling persons employed by him to accept terms or conditions of or affecting employment.
xvi) Industrial court – means the court established under session 14 of Trade Disputes Act Cap 234.
xvii) Trade Dispute – means a dispute or difference between employers and employees, or between employees and employees, or between employers and trade unions or between trade unions and trade unions, connected with the employment or non-employment or with the terms of employment or with conditions of labour.
Nature and purpose of employee relations
– Employee relations policies express the philosophy of the organization on what sort of relationships between management and employees and their unions are wanted, and how they should be handled.
– The overall aim of the policies should be to develop and maintain a positive, productive, cooperative and trusting climate of employee relations.
– When articulated, policies on employee relations provide guidelines for action on employee relations issues and can help to ensure that these issues are dealt with consistently.
– They therefore provide the basis for defining management’s intentions on key matters such as union recognition and collective bargaining.
Employee Relations Policies
The specific areas covered by employee relations policies are:-
i) Trade unions recognition – whether trade unions should be recognized or derecognised, which unions or unions the organization would prefer to deal with, and whether or not it is desirable to recognize only one union for collective bargaining and/or employee representational purposes.
ii) Collective bargaining – the extent to which it should be centralized or decentralized and the scope of areas to be covered by collective bargaining.
iii) Employee relations procedures – the nature and scope of procedures for redundancy, grievance handling and discipline.
iv) Employee relationship – The extent to which terms and conditions of employment should be governed by collective agreements or based on individual contracts of employment.
v) Harmonization of terms and conditions of employment for staff and manual workers.
vi) Working arrangements – the degree to which management has the prerogative to determine working arrangements without reference to trade unions or employees.
Employees Relations Objectives
Employee relations objectives define what the organization means to achieve in the application of its employee relations policies. These are to:
i) Improve the employee relations climate
ii) Decentralize collective bargaining arrangements
iii) Introduce single table bargaining
iv) Derecognize trade unions
v) Develop HRM type approaches of involvement and communication to increase mutuality.
Employee Relations Strategies
– Employee relations strategies set out how objectives such as those mentioned are to be achieved.
– Employee relations strategies should be distinguished from employee relations policies, strategies are dynamic.
– They provide a sense of direction, and give an answer to the question, how are we going to get from here to there?
– Employee relations policies are more about the here and now. They express the way things are done around here as far as dealing with unions and employees is concerned.
– Revolving around unions is not a solution, but only when a deliberate effort is made to change policies that a strategy for achieving this change has to be formulated.
– Thus, if the policy is to increase commitment the strategy could consider how this might be achieved by involvement and participation processes.
– The intentions expressed by employee relations strategies may direct the organization towards any of, the following:
i) Changing forms of recognition, including single union recognition, or derecognition.
ii) Changes in the form and content of procedural arrangements
iii) New bargaining structures, including decentralization or single table bargaining.
iv) The achievement of increased levels of commitment through involvement or participation.
v) Generally improving the employee relations climate in order to produce more harmonious and cooperative relationships.
vi) Increasing the extent to which management controls operations in such areas as flexibility.
vii) Developing a partnership with trade unions, recognizing that employees are stakeholders and that it is to the advantage of both parties to work together (this could be described as a unitarist strategy aiming at increasing mutual commitment)
Employee Relations Climate
– The employee relations climate of an organization represents the perceptions of management, employees and their representatives about the way in which employee relations are conducted and how the various parties (Managers, employers and trade unions) behave when dealing with one another.
– An employee relations climate can be good, bad or indifferent according to perceptions about the extent to which:
i) Management and employee trust one another
ii) Management treats employees fairly and with consideration.
iii) Management is open about its actions and intentions i.e. employee relations policies and procedures are transparent.
iv) Harmonious relationships are generally maintained on a day-to-day basis which result in willing cooperation rather than grudging submission.
v) Conflict, when it does arise, is resolved without resort to industrial action and resolution is achieved by integrative processes which result in a win-win solution.
vi) Employees are generally committed to the interests of the organization and equally, management treats them as stakeholders whose interests should be protected.
Improving the Climate
Improvements to the climate can be attained by developing:
i) Fair employee relations policies and procedures and implementing them consistently.
ii) Line managers and team leaders who are largely responsible for the day-to-day conduct of employees need to be educated and trained.
iii) Transparency should be achieved by communicating policies to employees.
iv) And commitment increased by involvement and participation processes.
v) Problems which need to be resolved can be identified by simply talking to employees, their representatives and trade union officials.
vi) A quality of working life (QWL) strategy can be developed. There is also need to build trust and an ethnical approach when dealing with employees.
The Institute of Personnel and Development, UK suggests that building trust is the only basis on which commitment can be generated and these tensions contained. For these reasons, attaining or sustaining world class levels of performance will be increasingly unlikely in organizations which do not treat their employees in ways which are consistent with their status as the key business resource with two aims:
i) Employees cannot just be treated as a factor of production.
ii) Organizations must translate these values into specific and practical action.
In too many organizations inconsistency between what is said and what is done undermines trust, generates employees cynicism and provides evidence of contradictions in management thinking.
REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR CHAPTER ONE:
1. Briefly define the following terminologies
a) Industrial relations
b) Employee relations
c) Labour relations
2. What is the role of employee relations in managing the organization?
3. Distinguish industrial relations and employee relations

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