Definition of Employee Relation

Employment relation can be defining as employer and employees relationship in a formal and informal nature that arises between management and employee interactions in all working situation.

According to Armstrong (2003), employee relations consist of all those areas of human resource management that deals with employees directly and through collective agreements where trade unions are recognised. The union practices for the welfare and good working condition of the employees. Employee relations are concerned with generally managing the relationship between employer and employees at the workplace that can be formal e.g. contract of employment or procedural agreement.

The Institute of Personnel and Development (IPD) defines employee relation as

“ that part of personnel; management that enable competent managers though the development of institutions, procedures and policies to reconcile within acceptable limits to the organization, the interest of employers as the buyers of labour service and those of employees as the suppliers of labour services."

Farnham (1993), suggests that Employee relation are:

“ Concerned with the interaction between primary parties who pay for work and those who provide it in the labour market ( employers and employees), those acting as secondary parties on their behalf (management or management organization and trade unions) and those providing a third party role on employment matters (state agencies and EU institutions)"

The Importance of Employee Relation

Encourage good organizational climate, mutual understanding and cooperation.

There is a clear and fair policy in solving the problems of the organization.

Employee relation treats people as valuable assets.

There is a equitable, fair and transparent treatment of employees.

There is an effective communication throughout the organization.

Theoretical Approaches to employee relations

There are three main perspectives of employee relations: the Unitary, the pluralist and the Marxist perspective.

The unitary

The unitary perspective is based upon the assumption that the organisation should have an integrated group of people, a loyalty structure and a common goal.

According to the unitary theory, the employment relationship should be harmonious. That is the employer and employees should work together to achieve the success and where there is no conflict.

“The organisation exists in perfect harmony and all conflict, not only industrial relation conflict is both unnecessary and exceptional." (Salamon 1992)

Unitarism is principally a management ideology since it supports management’s interests. Often this perspective has been characterized as the ‘team’ or ‘one big happy family’ approach.

Advantages of Unitary

it encourages consensus and harmonious employee relations.

Individual in the organisation become part of a team

it helps to legitimise the authority of regarding of both the interest of management and the employees as the same.

Management treats the employees with respect and dignity.

Disadvantages of Unitary

It does not recognise the inevitability of conflicts of interests between management and employees relations.

It can impair the efficient resolutions of disputes.

Pluralist Theory

This perspective assumes that employing organization are made up of individuals and groups with different interest, values and objectives; thus various interest and objective of one group are likely to conflict with those of others (Leat 2001). The pluralist accepts conflict in groups or organisations. The society is made up of a range of groups with their own beliefs, values and interest. To be able to compromise these disparate groups, it is important to come up with negotiations and concessions.

One of the processes by which these conflicts can be solved is by collective bargaining which is one of the functions of the trade unions.

Advantage of Pluralism

The most important advantage under pluralism is that employees are not alienated from their beliefs, cultures and identities. This enables the people to gain respect and dignity and boosting their self esteem.

Disadvantages of Pluralism

It may create a ‘them and us’ attitude between management and employees which may lead to disputes.

It can undermine the management’s authority and create an atmosphere conducive to trade unions activity

Marxist Theory

According to karl Marx, the society is made up of two conflicting classes: the first class is the capitalists which is referred to the employer and the second class is the employees who sell their labour to the capitalists. This situation is also known as ‘dialectic materialism’. In simpler term the employers are powerful (bourgeoisie) and the employees are weak (proletariat).

Conflict in employees’ relation.

Disputes between employer and employees are mainly of two types:

Conflicts of rights.

As every worker has some fundamental rights such as; wages, leave privileges, hours of work, conditions of service which are either enacted or agreed. Any breach on these issues would give rise to a conflict of rights.

Conflict of Interests

There are quite a number of other issues which do not considered as a right, but it has either a direct concern to the workers ( Relation between Employer / supervisor with subordinates or interpersonal conflicts ) or the future of the industry.

The trade union may involve in discussion with management on such matters to which the employees are concerned

Shift from Industrial Relations to Employees Relations

According to Blyton and Turnbull (2004)- industrial relations: “has acquired a deserved reputation for being dull and because it has too often failed to relate in any meaningful way to the reality of people’s working lives, how these were formed, how they are constrained and how they might be changed." .

Employee relation is a wider subject than 'industrial relation'. Nowadays, managements have a preference for the term 'employee relation' than 'industrial relation' as the latter often invokes conflict, strikes, social disharmony and disagreement. Employee relation is also better understood by the new evolution of todays life like computerisation, the greater used of robotic, the information technologies and advance manufacturing methods.

Participant

Trade union

Sidney and Beatrice Webb gave a classic definition of trade union.

Trade unions:

“A continuous association of wage earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving their working lives'

Another definition of trade unions is given in the Trade Union and Labour Relation (consolidation) Act 1992 which states that a trade union is “ an organisation (whether permanent or temporally) consisting wholly or mainly of workers whose principal purpose includes the regulation of relations between workers and employers'

Management

Management is a group of people who come together to make decision about how to run a business.

An employer is define as ‘someone who employs for wages, user’ while mamnagers is ‘one who controls or directs’. The management process is describe in terms of planning, organising, staffing, dircting and controlling the activities of an organisation in order to achieve the organisational goals.

The main objective in Employment relation is to ensure the most efficient and effective functioning of the organisation.

Role of management to maintain employees relationship

PROCESS

APPRAOCHES

Recruitment

During interviews, present the favourable and unfavourable aspect of the job

Induction

Ensuring the new entrants are aware of :the Personnel policies, Procedures. Core values, Flexible Requirements, Performance standards.

Employee Handbook

Issue and regularly update to reinforce information given in induction sessions

Performance Management

Develop processes that make sure performance expectation are agreed and regularly reviewed

Personnel Development Plans

By the use of self managed learning encourage review of agreed performance expectation

Training and development

Underpin core values and define performance expectation

Manager and Team leader Training

To ensure they are aware of their roles

Contact

Encouraging the maximum contact to achieve mutual understanding of expectation

State

A state can be define by a group of individual who have acquired international recognition as an independent county and which have a population, a common language and a define and distinct territory.

The influence of the state on employee relation.

The state has a direct as well as an indirect impact on the employee relation in a country.

The state influences directly the relationship of employer and employees through legislation and dispute resolution and indirectly by imposing 'the rules of engagement' in employee relations.

In other words the state act as

a legislator

an economic manager

an employer

a peace-keeper

History of Trade union in Mauritius

In 1835, the British Settlers turned to India for cheap labour. The Indians who arrived in great numbers were soon deluded by the inhuman conditions in which they had to live and work. Mr. Adolphe Von de Plevitz, a Prussian, manager of an estate in Nouvelle Decouverte, was so grieved by the plight of the indentured workers that he petitioned Queen Victoria, in the name of 9410 signatories in 1870.

In 1972, a Royal Commission was instituted and on its recommendation Mauritius knew its first labour laws.

The plight of the labouring class was gradually getting deteriorated. On 13 October 1907, arrived Manilall Doctor, special envoy of Mahatma Gandhi, to help the workers and the population out of the dire circumstances. He joined hands with Dr. Eugene Laurent to struggle for the emancipation of the workers.

In 1921, a year in which the country knew an economic boom, Mr Willy Moutou, and Mr Laurent set up the first Trade Union named : National Trade Union of Mauritius. Due to lack of popular support, the organisation was dissolved.

In the meantime, the country experienced a real awakening of the masses and workers in particular. The workers concerted among themselves, and Mauritius knew its first strike on 18 August 1926, when artisans of Plaine Lauzan stopped work to protest against the sacking of one of their colleagues.

Honorable Rohan and Laurent, members of the Legislative Council, represented the workers at the Commission of Inquiry instituted. A sort of “workers Council" was subsequently set up.

Following these uprisings, a motion was tabled at the Legislative Council on 31 August 1926 which read as follows: to provide for the regulation and registration of Trade Unions.

Though the motion was seconded by the then Colonial Secretary, Mr. M. Pritchard and even referred to the law committee, the project was totally forgotten soon afterwards.

The lot of the working class was getting worse. Dr. Maurice Cure in close association with Pundit Sahadeo, created the Labour Party and the “ Societe de Bienfaisance" for the workers.

Mr, Emmanuel Anquetil, who came in Mauritius in 1936, joined the movement and started to travel around the island to sensitize the workers.

Together with Dr. Cure and pundit Sahadeo, Anquetil organised some 54 public meetings and expressed the following demands:

(a) Creation of a Department of Labour

(b) The right to form Trade Unions

(c) Organisation of Strikes

(d) Establishment of a pension system

(e) Representatives of workers at the Government Council

(f) Change in constitution, etc.

Anquetil thus became a legend and came to be known as the father of the Mauritian Trade Unionism.

The situation became explosive and the first strike of labourers took place in Chebel on 15 July 1937, followed by another one in Riche Fond on 30 July.

History also vividly recalls the famous protest march / demonstration which culminated into the shameful bloodshed on 13 August 1937 at Union Flacq, where four martyrs gave their life. Another labourer was shot dead on 27 August, at L'Escalier.

The Royal Commission presided by Mr Hooper made the following recommendations

Introduction of appropriate legislation for the setting up of Industrial Associations

Adoption of a minimum wage

The creation of committee of wages

The creation of an office of statistic on work, and

Appointment of labour Inspectors, district wise.

With the enactment of the Industrial Associations Ordinance in May1936, 26 associations were created and registered, including one by the employers.

The most active Industrial Associations at that time were;

North and Central Riviere du Rempart Labourers Industrial Workers

Moka Labourers Industrial Association

The Artisans Industrial Association

Wharves and Docks Workers Industrial Association

On the 01 May 1938, the triumvirate (Cure, Anquetil, Sahadeo) organised the very first Labour Day by organising a public meeting at Champ de Mars. It gathered an immense crowd of around 35,000 people.

On 01 September, 1938, a strike took place at the Docks. This was also the first strike of Dock workers, organised by Me Anquetil. The Dockers were jailed and replaced by labourers. A State of Emergency was proclaimed.

On 07 September, the ship Bonte Koe left the port with Mr. Anquetil and his 15 year old son, John, to be exiled in Rodrigues. However, he returned back in November 1938 and the struggle continued.

In the sugar cane fields, the labourers continued to protest and organised marches. The first Minimum Wage Board was established in 1939. But most of its recommendations were discarded and there were no Tribunal or Industrial court to pursue the issues further. Many strikes and demonstration marches were held. Another famous demonstration ended in bloodshed on 27 September, 1943, where Mrs. Anjalay Coopen, a pregnant woman, together with three other workers was found dead.

It is to be noted that at that time, Industrial Associations were organised on a regional basis. Consequently, reaching collective bargaining was not possible.

1.10.1 Creation of Trade Unions

It was in March 1945, when Mr. Kenneth Baker was advising the government, that Trade union came into existence.

Mr. E. Anquetil registered the “Engineering and Technical Workers Union" covering a membership all around the island.

The first Workers Federation was also created: “Mauritius Trade Union Congress" comprising of all Unions that existed at that time.

Employees of the Civil Service also formed trade unions.

In July 1963, the Mauritius Trade Union Congress and the Confederation of Free Trade Union merged to form one confederation: Mauritius Labour Congress.

The 01 May 1950 was proclaimed as a Public Holiday, following a motion tabled at the Legislative Assembly on 29 April, 1949.

1.10.2 Trade Unions under the obedience of MMM

In1969, in the wake of a new political party, the MMM, the Trade Union took a new turn. New trade unions were formed which were associated of their political ideology.

Stoppage of work became a regular feature. The national economy was worsening.

The government had recourse to a new law: The Public Order Act was proclaimed in 1970.

Under the initiative of trade unions under impulse of the MMM, workers of the bus industry went on a general strike which lasted more than 15 days. A State of Emergency was thus imposed. Trade union leaders were arrested and some Trade Unions of MMM obedience was suspended.

On 18 December 1973, the Parliament voted the famous IRA (Industrial Relations Act).

The IRA became effective as from 07 February, 1974.

Under this law, the Registrar of Associations was empowered to investigate in internal matters of the Unions and their finances.

Repressions against Trade Union leaders were so rigid that many of them faced trials, and imprisonment.

1.10.3 Present situation

It is also pitiful to note that for multiple reasons, the number of Trade Unions has continued to increased. We have more than 350 Trade Unions and about 7 Federations.

Paradoxically, the number of Union members is getting low. Less than 25% of the total workforce is Unionised.

Functions of trade unions

Negotiation

Negotiation is when the trade unionist discuss with the employer about the problem that affects the employees at workplace. It is a way to voice out employees opinion.

These negotiations may be related to issues such as the determination of the wages, hour of work or conditions of employment of its member. This is also known as collective bargaining/ collective agreements.

Representation

The trade union selects someone to represent them on the board of directors of companies to find a solution to the problem they are facing at work. They also Safeguard and protect the jobs especially for those workers who are under threat of technological changes.

Welfare works

The trade union also acts as a resource center for the employees. The trade unions help them in the form of accident, sickness benefits or in legal matters such as how many holidays they are entitled to each year, what should be done when there is an unfair dismissal or matters concerning their salary. Trade union also supports its member during strikes or unemployment. They try to increase the welfare of its member by providing indoors and outdoors games.

The aims and objectives of trade unions

To improve the terms of employment

To improve the physical environment at work

To archive full employment

To achieve security of employment and income

To improve social security

The power of trade unions

The strength of the trade unions is the solidarity of there members and their willingness to take industrial actions and ability to organize strikes. The trade unions have also good negotiating skills and the capacity to arouse favourable public sentiments,

Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining is the central function of trade unions as it is concerned with the determination of the wage, hour rate and conditions of work.

‘Collective Bargaining’ was introduced by the Webbs (1920) as ‘collective bargaining is the process whereby representative of employers and employees jointly determine and regulate decisions pertaining to both substantive and procedural matters within the employment relationship. The outcome of this process is the collective agreement.’

But before entering into collective bargaining, a trade union should be legally and sufficiently represented. A trade union should in fact has a majority of employees / workers of an industry organised within a trade union.. This trade union should be registered.

A procedural agreement will have to be signed with the employer/s. This procedural agreement would determine all issues that the trade union could negotiate, and also what are issues which remain a privilege for the employer.

Once a collective agreement has been signed by both the trade union and the employer, the issues agreed upon become in force, and should be respected by both parties.

A collective agreement covers workers who are not organised as well. They benefit all the advantages reached with the agreement.

Issues that are normally covered in collective agreements are: labour contract, including working hours, breaks, wages, benefits, working conditions, and the rules of the workplace.

In some cases, however, the union may resort to counter tactics such as threatening for strike or creating a lockout, in order to push the agreement through.

Collective bargaining agreements are one among numerous tools available to labor unions to help define and protect the rights of individual workers.

In some cases the government may be involved to bring parties together for agreement, mainly if the industry is of great importance for the national economy. Government representatives may offer to act as mediators to facilitate talks or even act as mediators.

Else the government may intervene as per law to compel both or all parties concern for Arbitration.

ARBITRATION

Arbitration agreements are also sometimes used in labour-related disputes. Disputes between employees and employers are frequently settled by arbitration. Both trade unions and employers have compulsory arbitration which is also used in relations between employers and unions.

Contract negotiations and disputes are often submitted to arbitration, and collective bargaining agreements often have arbitration clauses specifying procedures for resolving employee grievances against the employer.

Many times, employees cannot afford the cost of hiring a legal representative to pursue litigation. So they will agree for employment arbitration.

If the arbitration / mediation is fair and impartial, the parties may be able to reach a reasonable solution. Normally, outside arbitration would seem fairer and would perhaps lead to greater success in arriving at an acceptable settlement.

Employee relation and trade union recognition

Since the twentieth century, there have been increases in the human practices and new type of work organisation with the basis of a new win-win relationship between employer and employees.

According to Taylor (2003) “This contributed to the introduction of employee relations as a concept that broadened the study of industrial relations from a union focus to include wider aspects of the employment relationship, including non-unionised workplaces, personal contracts, and socio-emotional, rather than contractual arrangements."

GRIEVANCES

Relations between employees and employers have always given rise to multiple forms of grievances among the employees.

Any change in the conditions of work for a group of workers ends in grievances. Promotions, language, behaviour, harassment, favouritism, interpersonal relations are some examples of individual grievances.

No doubt this brings frustration and de-motivation which is harmful both to the employee and the management.

Consequently, such grievances should be promptly addressed. The Procedural Agreement normally deals with this chapter. It should be clearly defined how such grievances be handled.

In most cases, it is the union representative/s who intervenes at workplace level, followed, if unsuccessful, by official meeting with trade union leaders. This may end with arbitration as well.