Unionsversus Human Resources Management
Unionsversus Human Resources Management
Labourrelations are a central part of corporate governance. Modernorganizations are adopting performance based strategies in theirlabour relations activities. These strategies are inclined towardscost reduction, quality improvement, continuous innovation andsustenance of performance culture. The pursuit of these goals ascompetitive advantages is greatly influenced by the employees in anorganization(Vernon and Brewster2013). There has been a reduction on the benefits enjoyed by thetraditional permanent and pensionable employee. These changes requireorganizations to structure a relationship that wins employees loyaltyand commitment while managing the labour costs in the productionprocess (Skinner1998).
Thechallenge of eliminating a transactional relationship with employeesis a form of risk management for the modern performance basedorganization. This has to be done against a backdrop of organizedworkforce groupings, professional organizations, and a legal settingthat is friendly to the employees. ThesisThis paper analyses the roles of human resource managers’ andworkers’ unions in modern organizations, their complementary andcontrasting functions and the available workers’ protection andsupport systems in the modern work places.
TheRole of Human Resource Personnel, Unions and Government Interventionsin Addressing Worker’s Rights and Safety
Themodern organization exists within a structured and regulated legalsystem. Companies pursue competitive advantages in terms of talentacquisition, growth and output sustenance against a set of legal bareminimums that have been established. These legal baselines haveinternational and local application. The UN charter and the universaldeclaration of human rights provides for right to work and theelement of free choice of employment within favourable conditions.The International Labour Organization (ILO) declaration onfundamental principles and rights at work provides for worker’srights to favourable remuneration, equal work for equal pay, socialprotection mechanisms and freedom to join or form trade unions. Theseuniversal legal provisions apply to organizations in the UnitedStates since the US is a signatory to this charter.
TheLabour Management Relations Act provides and safeguards an employee’sright to form trade unions for negotiations on terms of service, TheFair Labour Relations Act addresses workers remuneration byestablishing a minimum wage, currently the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. There exist variations in different states but theyare above the set federal minimum. The Occupational Health and SafetyAct and its subsidiary regulations provides for the health standardsin the workplaces and the measures to ensure employees safety andcompensations in instances of work-related health losses.
Thehuman resource personnel are the principal agents in safeguardingworkers’ rights and safety standards (Ulrich1998). The HR personnel offer a link between capital and labour. Therole of the modern human resource personnel has moved fromrecruitment, policy supervision and benefits handling to moresuccinct roles that perceive the employee as central to anorganization’s competitive advantages.
TheHuman resource personnel pursue employee’s interests to ensure theworkers are fully integrated into an organizations culture not justas a merchant of services but as important players in the outputperformance and future of the organization (Beer et al 1984). This isdone by HRM engaging managers on the workers training needs,technology upgrades, working conditions and other social protectionschemes. Huselid(2013) notes that HR personnel inform and ensure establishment ofbudget lines that facilitate employees to discover full potentialwithin a motivated favourable workplace.
TradeUnions are established by workers to further their interest that areeither existing or anticipated. The Unions have legal backing acrossall states. They exist based on the reality that legal provisions maynot be enough in a non-equal labour capital relationship(Vernon&Brewster2013).Unions use the strength in numbers to lobby for the worker’s rightsand safety as provided for in existing laws and organizationalpolicies.
Theunions have an ever present last resort in the right to withdrawservices. This has made them successful in getting compromises fromemployers across all sectors. The occupational health and safetystandards are developed with unions as the major stakeholders. Thisensures that workers safety in the workplace is guaranteed. Theunions have also taken the form of professional organizations thatpursue economic and social rights of their members while promoting aself-regulatory mechanism. This is typical in legal and accountingprofessions.
Evaluationof Unions and HRM Roles
Theactivities that unions and human resource personnel engage in are allgeared towards the worker. The unions present the case for theworkers while the human resource personnel are the conduit betweenthe workers and the management. The human resource personnel presentthe case for workers to the managers, and the manager’s responsesto the workers. In modern organizations the human resource personnelhave moved from the passive conduit role to an active office thatguides the management on employee relations as a means of buildingcapabilities for organizational challenges.
TheUnions are structured within sectors or professions while the humanresource officer’s roles are not profession specific butorganizational specific. The HRM pursues what is within the interestsof all the workers irrespective of sectorial or cadre differences.The HRM role as the employee’s negotiator to the managementoverlaps with the unions traditional mandate of engaging employers onremuneration, working conditions and other worker’s rights. Theexistence of this overlap may not be a strong case to eliminateeither party from the business structure but an opportunity to pursuelabour relations success without roles duplication. Ulrich(1998) observes that although the HRM is a cost on the organization,restructuring it to be a change agent in the face of globalisationand technology change is the best strategy. The role of the union hasdecreased with the emergence of task based contracting andoutsourcing, the modern worker’s union is restructuring itself togo beyond the negotiating role to a stakeholder who contributes tothe boardroom decisions and participates in the execution. Thisarrangement gives both parties complementary roles in theorganizational structure.
Inconclusion, the modern American workplace has a well-supported andprotected worker. There are sufficient legal structures that ensureworkers are protected against any predatory nature from the employer.The traditional capitalist proposition that labour can effectivelyrelate and negotiate with capital has been replaced with governmentregulations. The sufficient legal backing given to the unions grantsthe American worker the right to associate and negotiate as a group.The changing HR roles that focus on change management amidst globalchallenges ensures employees are protected as an aspect of corporategovernance and also for public image management in the informationage.
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