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Taylor, Doherty and McGraw (2015) define employee relation as processes and activities geared towards maintaining a productive workplace environment while satisfying the needs of the workforce. These relations are based on mutual obligations of the employee as seen in the employee’s psychological contract with the employer. What is key in enhancing positive employee relations is the strategic process of having them involved either through effective communication and participation in decision making or through trade unions. According to Taylor, Doherty and McGraw (2015), trade unions is a mechanism of employee involvement that gives an employee a collective voice when bargaining or negotiating with their employer over such working conditions as benefits, pay, workload and grievance procedures. This paper discusses three benefits and grievance process issues in third-party resolutions, labor and management tactics, as well as labor and management issues.
Part 1 – Three Options for Third-Party Resolution
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When management and labor are unable to agree on contract terms, an impasse occurs and third-party interventions often become necessary to help resolve their differences. There are three third-party resolution procedures that are used to resolve the impasse. These are mediation, fact finding and arbitration.
Mediation is a neutral third-party attempts to facilitate resolution by keeping the parties bargaining, acting as a go-between and offering alternates (Holley, Jennings & Wolters, 2015). Mediators often meet with the conflicting parties individually at first to discover the details of the conflict. Then, they encourage the parties to resume bargaining. Mediators may suggest compromise positions that bridge the gap in negotiations, or they may act as intermediaries to persuade the parties that their proposals are unrealistic. However, mediators serve only an advisory role and have no power to compel the settlement of disputes, and their findings are not binding unless approved by both parties in the dispute (Holley, Jennings & Wolters, 2015). Mediation is usually the first step in conflict resolution and is often preferred during the early stages of the conflict to resolve it. For instance, when there is a looming boycott or strike by staff over a better pay, mediation can be used to obviate the strike or boycott and allow for negotiations.
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Fact finding entails holding and adversarial hearing, at which parties present their positions on the issue in dispute to a fact-finder. The fact-finder studies the evidence presented at the hearing, collects other facts, and then makes a report, which includes a recommended resolution of the impasse (Holley, Jennings & Wolters, 2015). This recommendation is written and publicized. Similar to mediations, the fact-finder recommendations are not binding to the parties. However, the publication of the recommendations and the threat of unfavorable publicity often make both sides be more willing to reach a negotiated settlement. Fact-finding is often appropriate where mediation has failed. For instance, where mediation has failed to avert a worker’s strike over better pay and working conditions, a fact-finder can be appointed by the state labor relations board. Further, it can conduct hearings on the disputed pay and working conditions, and collect evidence from the workers and their employer, as well as from other outside sources.
Arbitration is a procedure opted for when mediation and fact-finding have failed to resolve the conflict. According to Taylor, Doherty and McGraw (2015), in contrast to mediation and fact-finding, arbitration is binding with the arbitrator’s decision being final. Additionally, arbitration involves adjudication and parallels the court system where the final decision is offered by the judge (arbitrator), and, similar to the legal system, it has a number of standards for operating procedures. In arbitration, a quasi-judicial proceeding is set up where a neutral third party, individual, or panel makes a determination of the issues that the parties have not been able to resolve. Arbitration is used when both parties have totally failed to agree. For instance, when the workers have downed theiir tools, have paralyzed normal working operations and have totally rejected a new better pay and improved working conditions offered by their employer. In this scenario, the employer and the employees will have to agree to go to arbitration to have a neutral third party decide their case.
Part 2 – Tactics used in Labor and Management Impasses
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Labor laws have permitted employers and labor organizations to engage in certain tactics against each other that are known as “economic actions” to influence the other party to reach agreement in collective bargaining (Bagley, 2015). Strikes, lockouts, boycotts, work slowdowns, and corporate campaigns form an important part of the economic actions available to labor organizations. Strikes involve worker’s temporarily but totally downing their tools and refusing to work by not reporting to the duty station to protest an unfair labor practice. When labor unions are not prepared for the drastic option of a strike, they may call for a slowdown. In slowdown, the employees who are union members report to work, but they greatly reduce their productivity through slowing down all activities. Corporate campaigns entail pressurizing the employer using a variety of means including boycotts, alliances with community groups, regulatory and legal challenges, or attacking the employer’s business allies. The idea behind corporate campaign is to hit the employer from as many points of attacks as possible. Similar to corporate campaigns, there is a boycott when the unionized employees and their sympathizers refuse to handle or buy products of the target firm (Bagley, 2015).
Management can respond to a strike or work slowdowns with a lockout where it prevents its unionized employees from entering their workplace in order to force their union to accept their last contract proposal (Bagley, 2015). The most successful tactic is still strikes. However, in the present age and time, employers are known to hire replacements; thus, strikes put the unionized employees at a risk of losing their jobs. Nevertheless, strike is still the best tactic as it totally halts productions and forces the employer to come to the negotiating table quickly.
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