The Roles of Workers and Workers' Unions in Creating Industrial Harmony

In my previous post, I wrote about the Roles of Management in creating industrial harmony. Building on that, today, I will be sharing with you how workers and their unions can contribute to creating industrial harmony in an organization. Industrial harmony connotes peaceful interrelationships within the business place. It is a state of affairs in an industry wherein workers and Management work hand in hand without any friction. It is also a situation where conflicts are easily and quickly resolved without escalating to crises.

To begin with, it is an undeniable fact that all parties - Management, workers and unions - benefit immensely from a state of harmony in the industry. Business growth, organizational continuity, staff welfare and prosperity are just some instances of the benefits of industrial harmony.

The workers and their unions have crucial roles to play in maintaining smooth industrial relations. It is a fact that unions protect the interests of employees through collective bargaining. But at the same time they have equal responsibility to see that the organization does not suffer on account of their direct actions such as ‘frequent’ strikes, especially for trivial reasons. Every possible avenue should be exploited to peacefully resolve industrial issues.

Unions should see the organization as a joint enterprise between employees and management; and therefore promote business success by encouraging increased production, helping to maintain workplace discipline, promoting cordial relations between workers and management by resolving grievances and complaints through negotiation, joint consultation and arbitration, and avoiding litigation as much as possible. By so doing, organizational success is assured.

Workers’ unions should be willing to adopt a policy of ‘give and take’ while bargaining with the management; this demonstrates that the unions are also sensitive to other management commitments, and are willing to shift grounds when and where necessary to maintain smooth relations at the workplace.

The unions must be able to understand and appreciate the problems of management, and educate their members (the workers) about the problems in a bid to seek the understanding and cooperation of the workforce in running the enterprise. The unions and their members must understand that both management and workers depend on each other and any sort of problem on either side will do harm to both sides. When organizations are closed down due to union actions, workers and their families alongside the management are also affected by the attendant job losses.

Workers should recognize the unions as their only authorized representatives in all discussions and bargaining with management, and abstain from founding other informal groups, which creates conflicts of interest and destroy good human relations amongst the workforce in general.

Furthermore, workers should avoid peddling and listening to rumors, especially concerning Management's policies. They should endeavor to follow proper channels in communicating their grievances, either as individuals or group, rather than resorting to ways that destroy company goodwill and industrial relations. If an employee or groups of employees are aggrieved, they should not take laws into their hands, but seek redress via their legitimate representatives (the unions).

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