The term “Industrial relations” refers to relationships between management and labour or among employees and their organisations that characterise or grow out of employment.
According to Dale Yoder definition it as “a relationship between management and employees (or) among employees and their organisations, that characterised and grow out of employment”.1
Dunlop feels that industrial relations are the complex of inter-relations among workers, managers and government.2
P.H. Casselman defines industrial relations as “the relations between employers and employees in Industry”.3
According to J. Henry Richards on “Industrial relations are the art of living together for purpose of production”.
The definition given in the encyclopaedia Britannica underscores the fact that industrial relations cover both individual relations and joint consultation between employers and employees. At the place of work, collective relations between employees and their organisations and the trade unions, and the part played by the state in regulating the relations”. The definition has added one more dimension of joint consultation to the subject of industrial relations. One aspect is that of individual or interpersonal relationships among the workers and between the workers and the employers. The other aspect pertains to consultation between the employees and the workers as a process of adjustment. The third aspect is the institutionalised relationships directed towards the regulation of relations. But in its wider connotation, industrial relations cannot merely be confined to common labour management relations or employer-employee relations.4
‘Industrial relations’ may be defined as the process by which human beings and their organisations interact at the workplace and, more broadly, in society as a whole to establish the terms and conditions of employment.5
Objectives of the Industrial Relations
The primary objective of bringing about sound and healthy relations between employers and employees, industrial relations is designed.
(a) to facilitate production and productivity;
(b) to safeguard the rights and interests of both labour and management by enlisting their co-operation;
(c) to achieve a sound, harmonious, and mutually beneficial labour management relations;
(d) to avoid unhealthy atmosphere in the industry, especially work stoppages, go-slows, gheraos, strikes, lockout; and
(e) to establish and maintain industrial democracy.
According to Kirkaldy, industrial relations is divided into four categories.
- Improvement in the economic conditions of workers in the existing state of industrial management and political government;
- Control exercised by the state over industrial undertakings with a view to regulating production and promoting harmonious industrial relations;
- Socialisation or rationalisation of industries by making the state itself a major employer; and
- Vesting of a proprietary interest of the workers in the industries in which they are employed.6
Scope of Industrial Relations
There is no unanimity on the meanings and scope of “Industrial Relations” since different terms, such as labour-management relations, employer-employee relations, union-management relations, personnel relations, and human relations, are in use and are used synonymously. In its strict sense, the term industrial relation” means relationship between management and workmen in a unit or an industry. It means the organisation and practice of multi-pronged relationships between workers and management, unions and workers and the unions and managements in an industry.7
An industry is a social world in miniature where an association of variety of people like employers, executives and supervisory personnel and workmen interact and execute a relationship known as industrial relations. This association of people not only influence labour relations but also the social, economic, political and moral lives of the whole community.
In other words, industrial life creates a service of social relationship which regulate the relation and working of a wide variety of people either directly or indirectly or both Industrial relations (IR) are, therefore, part and parcel of industrial life, as such they include:
- (a) Labour relations, i.e., relations between union and management (also known as labour management relations).
- (b) Employer-employee relations, i.e., relations between management and employees.
- (c) Group relation i.e., relations between various groups of workmen, and
- (d) Community or public relations, i.e., relation between industry and society.
The main aspects of IR are:
- Promotion and development of healthy labour-management relations;
- Maintenance of industrial peace and avoidance of industrial life, and
- Development of industrial democracy.8
Approaches to Industrial Relations
Industrial relations are the result of several socio-economic, psychological and political factors. They are not mutually exclusive, but rather, if taken together, can help to make better sense of the diverse, complex and dynamic nature of the employment relationship. All approaches is a mixture of:
(i) assumption and conviction (implicit socio-political or ethical values and beliefs;.
(ii) description, Explanation and Production (discussion or analysis of what is and projection of how it might develop), and
(iii) prescription (suggestion of what ought to be done, or how it ought to be done, to achieve a desired objectives).
The common approaches to industrial relations are described below:
The unitary approach is based on the view that there is an identity of interest between employer and employees. Any conflict that may occur is then seen as the result of misunderstanding or mischief. This approach underlay the much taken-forgranted managerial thinking about every one in an organisation having shared goals, and also underpinned the ‘human relation’ tradition.8
Unitarism was often used as a straw man representing old-fashioned and unrealistic ideas. However, many managers continued to believe in a harmony of interest which has led to the resurgence of managerial self confidence and revival of unitarism since the 1880s, during the 1990s, human resource management often applied that management was the sole or at least key authority. Thus, managers without these responsibilities are likely to be even more strongly ‘unitarist’.
The pluralist approach views conflict as inevitable because of involvement of various stakeholders and their respective organisations in determining the rules of employment. Stakeholders have their own bases of authority and whenever there are separate sources of authority, there is the risk of conflict. Thus, industrial relations are viewed as an applied and pragmatic in nature and places an emphasis on procedural and institutional concern, towards policy relevance and problem-solving.
The pluralistic approach accepts the legitimacy of employees combining in formal organisations to express their interests, influence management decisions and in order to achieves their objectives. A pluralistic approach recognises that labour problems or issues do not relate only to conflict between employers and employees. Hence, the management should pursue pluralist approach, as it should recognise the inevitability of disputes and seek means to regulate them instead of a unitary denial. Flanders (1970), “the paradox, whose truth managements have found it so difficult to accept, is that they can only regain control by sharing it”.
The system approach focuses on the rules of industrial relations and their determinants. Employees, employers, the state and environmental contexts of ethnology, market forces, and relative power and status of parties, all interact within the industrial relations system to establish a network of rules governing their relationship in the workplace, the rules being the output of the system.
This ‘system model’ is an attempt to apply parsonian structural-functionalism with the concept of Industrial Relations system. Dunlops original systems view not only identified actors working within contexts to develop a body of rules but also saw them being integrated through a broadly accepted common ideology. However, there are certain problems with systems approach such as:
- System views do not adequately reflect the real nature of the wider society;
- Emphasises roles rather than people; and
- The idea of common ideology has been criticised as it seems to refer to industrial relation as a natural stable order10.
The radical approach evolved due to criticism of the pluralist approach, which is based on the following assumptions.
- Employers do not need to exercise their full industrial power by closing plants and withdrawing their capital; the implicit threat that they have such power is sufficient to balance any direct collective power exercised by employees and unions;
- The social and political institutions with in the society support the intrinsic position of management; employees, through the influence of education and the mass media, become socialised into accepting the existing system and role of management.
- Harmonious relationship could be in the interests of all but major differences of interest between employees and employers exist; and
- Institutional participation could help to meet the goals of a just and fair treatment of employees from their employers, but the ‘conflict’ runs much deeper than the role played by institutions.
The radical approach emphasised the class structure in society forms as an important part of industrial relations and therefore is concerned with workers and the working class as well as with unions and to have collective bargaining. The radical approach encompasses the following.
- Class (group) conflict is the source of societal change; without such conflict the society would stagnate;
- Class conflict arises primarily from the distribution of, and access to economic power within the society; the principal disparity being between those own capital and those who supply their labour;
- 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.
- Social and political conflict in whatever form is merely an expression of the underlying economic conflict within the society11.
All approaches treat industrial relation as a process largely confined to a nation-state and has thus required amendment in the light of supra-national regulation and ‘globalisation’.
Importance of Industrial Relations
Industrial relations system is one in which relationships between management and employees on one hand and between them and the state on the other are more harmonious. Co-operative and creates an environment conducive to economic efficiency and the motivation, productivity and development of the employee and generates employee loyalty and mutual trust. Industrial relations may be described as being concerned with rules, processes and mechanisms through which the relationship between employers, employees, and their respective representatives, as well as between them on one hand and the state and its agencies on the other, is regulated.12
The establishment of good industrial relations depends on the constructive attitude on the part of both management and the union. The constructive attitude in its turn depends on all the basic policies and procedure laid down in any organisation for the promotion of healthy industrial relations. It depends on the ability of the employers and trade unions to deal with their mutual problems freely and independently with responsibility.13
Industrial relations seek to balance the economic efficiency of organisations with equity, justice, and the development of the individual, to find ways of avoiding, minimising and resolving disputes and conflict and to promote harmonious relations between and among the actors directly involved, and society as a whole.
For citing this article use:
- Pudi, M. S. (2015). Union management relations in sugar industry of coastal Andhra Pradesh with reference to NCS sugars limited Bobbili and KCP sugars limited Vuyyuru.
- Singh, B.D. “Industrial Relations Emerging Paradigms”, Excel Books, New Delhi, 2008, pp.3-4.
- John T. Dunlop (1955). “Labour Economics”.
- Casselman, P.H. “Labour Dictionary”, p.197.
- Sarma, A.M. “Industrial Relations (Conceptual and Legal Framework)”, Himalaya Publishing House, Mumbai, 2002, p.5.
- Daniel Quinn Mills. Labour–Management Relations, Graduate School of Business Administration, McGraw Hill, Inc., 1994, p.3.
- Sarma, A.M.. Op. Cit., 2002, p.1.
- Monal Arora . “Industrial Relations”, Excel Books, New Delhi, 1999, p.5.
- Mamoria, C.B., Satish Mamoria and Gankar, S.V. Op. Cit., 2005, pp.185-186.
- Tapomoy Deb. “Managing Human Resources and Industrial Relations”, Excel Books, New Delhi, 2005, p.528.
- Sarma, A.M. (2002). Op. Cit., p.7.
- Subba Rao, P. “Essentials of Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations”, Himalaya Publishing House, Mumbai, 1989, p.503.