There is no doubt that both conflict and cooperation are part and parcel of employment relationships. There are different forms of industrial conflicts. These include: Overt (boycotts, pickets, sabotages, strikes, bans, etc); covert (absenteeism, work to rule, theft, go-slow, indifference, etc); individual or collective conflicts; and proactive conflicts.
There are several reasons suggested to explain why industrial conflicts occur. In many cases, industrial conflicts are caused by lack of employment security, moribund managerial control and poor remunerations. In addition, an industrial conflict may emerge when the interests of the employer and his/her employees collide. For example, this may happen when the employer wields control and demand enhanced productivity from his/her workers.
On the other hand, employees may expect an increased remuneration to compensate for their efforts. As a result, an industrial conflict may occur when employees’ earnings are not increased to reflect their efforts. It is thus imperative that employers provide their workers with excellent working environment, increased participation, job security, good management strategies and better earnings in order to avert an industrial conflict.
The state plays an integral role in industrial relations. The characteristics of workplace industrial relations are directly affected by adjustments in the character of state interventions in the labor market. The state intervenes in the labour market by imposing restrictions on managerial prerogatives as well as protecting the reproduction of labourforce.
In the last three decades, the Australian government adopted a corporatist regime as an intervention strategy in the labour market to foster social partnerships between the labour unions, state and employers. During this period, economic concessions (such as wage reductions) were done by the state.
On the other hand, business organizations gained from subdued industrial conflicts as well as low inflation. However, the corporatism accord came to an end when the Howard administration took helm in 1996. The new government modified state policies in order to diminish the role of the state in the economy.
Some of the policy changes included privatization of some sections of the public sector (e.g. abolition of Public Service Board), marketisation of state services and reduction in state expenditure. Although the federal government adopted managerialism and marketisation strategies from mid 1980, it still plays a vital role in the labour market to date.
The basic role of management is to merge, distribute and utilize resources to realize the objectives of the organization. Business organizations employ different management control strategies. Some of these management control strategies are:
- Direct control: examples include tight supervision and industrial discretion.
- Responsible autonomy: employees are granted autonomy and status at work.
- Other forms of controls include: technical control; personalized control; commitment-based control; and bureaucratic control.
There are a number of factors that influence the choice of management control strategy. Some of these factors include: state regulations; market forces; and employee acceptance/resistance. An organization may choose to adopt a management control strategy for a particular group of workers based on several factors. These include:
- The need to sustain good working relations with workers: For example, eliminating union workplace may hurt existing relations with workers.
- Cultural factors: The choice of the management control strategy is determined by the cultural factors both at the organizational and national level.
- Labour market and product market conditions: This entails competition based on quality, price and innovation and surplus or shortages of labour.
- State regulations: the state play an important role in the determination of the management control strategy to be adopted by an organization.