Perspectives in Industrial Relations

When parties, employers and employees, meet for the purpose of negotiating an agreement on pay and conditions of work, they generally bring certain perspectives to the negotiating table about the industrial relations process itself.

These perspectives can be often witnessed in the media.

  1. Unitarism - This perspective makes the case that employers and employees should share similar objectives and that there should be harmony in the workplace. If there is not harmony in the workplace (between employers and employees) then it is the result of somebody being mischievous.
  2. Pluralism - This perspective makes the case that any workplace will have people with a variety of different objectives and therefore conflict is bound to happen. Further conflict is seen as legitimate.
  3. Marxism - This perspective makes the case that disputes in the workplace are as a result of “class struggle” which arises out of the disparity in strength in the labour market between the people who supply labour (workers) and the people who exploit such labour to create wealth (capitalists).

When enterprise bargaining take place in the work place between employers and employees to set pay and conditions of work, the perspectives of the negotiating parties can considerably effect the ease with which an agreement is reached. Employers with a Unitarism perspective may start from a standpoint that any industrial relations conflict is unjustifiable. Workers, if their perspective is that employers are out to exploit their workers, will have difficulty trusting the motives of employers.


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