Adoption of unitarist approach in employment relations




Adoption of unitarist approach in employment relations

Unitarism in employee relations refers to an integrated and harmonized system within an organization. This new dimensional shift focuses on more integrated and strategic frameworks that focus on shared workplace interests and employee commitment. The unitarist perspective is one of the key employee frameworks in human resource management. In the unitarist framework, there is a singular source of authority within the organization. This is the management and characterized by the lack of opposition leaders. Organizational leaders are tasked with the role of promoting commitment and loyalty to workers. Although membership of trade unions has been on the decline because of unitarism, trade unions still play a key role in employee relations. In addition, government intervention has also reduced but it is still relevant through tribunal engagement and dispute mediation in employee relations. Some of the main countries that have adopted and are affected by unitarism are Australia and Britain.

Unitarism offers a new challenge for Trade unions and the government to adjust to a new working environment. Most unions are familiar with the traditional customs, practices and work patterns within a collectivist or pluralist approach in industrial relations. For instance, in Australia the managed deregulation of the workplace environment was suitable for decentralized bargaining. This allowed the adoption of innovative methodologies in human resource policies that would suit employee relations (Kramar, et al, 2012). The management techniques in Unitarianism present limitations for the function of unions. In addition, mediation by government tribunal in disputes is also limited. The firm strategies and policies of the unitarist organization prevent unions from voicing employee complaints. Adjustments to the traditional systems undermine the position of trade unions and government with the workforce.

Unitarism cites the responsibility of management to control and oversee conflicts. The unitary perspective states that conflict arises from the lack of information and inadequacy or lack of presentation of the policies by management (Healy, 2007). This view identifies the source of conflict as the staff and not the management. However, there are conflicts that arise from management through policies, objectives, guidelines, relations and policy implementation. Therefore, Unitarianism disregards or limits the impact management plays in staff conflict. Some organizations also have “hard” oriented strategies that neglect the human role (Taina, 2000). This also limits the position of government in implementation of labor laws like in Britain and Australia.

The paternalistic approach in unitarism sets limits on employer-employee disagreements and grievance articulation. Management is commissioned with controlling employee relations thereby limiting the methodology in which staff can articulate their problems and needs without fear of impending consequences. This is a function of trade unions and government in acting as mediators between employers and employees. However, the unitary system does not provide for opponents of management. Therefore, laborers are set under an organization that does not allow them to express their grievance against those in top positions as is the case in some organizations in Australia. Trade unions and the government are also not allowed to influence management decisions in employee relations. This approach is contrary to the pluralist theory that integrates diverse sets of policies and institutional control (Garavan, et al, 2005).

The unitary theory is based on numerous impractical assumptions. The policies fail to realize the power inequalities that are existent in the workplace. This is particularly between employees and their employers. These differences are bound to generate numerous and diverse forms of conflicts. Managers exert immense power over staff in the determination of work conditions (Morrell, et al, 2004). This creates a poor working environment for the employees as they lack a proper system of expressing their discontentment or requirements. Trade unions are also reduced in their role because of management control. Suitable government intervention in times of crisis will also be difficult under the management structure.

The perception of conflict under a unitary system makes it difficult for integration trade unions and government intervention. Conflict in the unitary context is treated negatively. It is also not perceived as the force that reflects the existing workplace inequalities. Accordingly, conflict can also be used as an opportunity to regain and maintain workplace harmony. There are different kinds of conflicts at work (Hodgkinson, 2003). Accordingly, some conflicts are beneficial for organizational development. Studies have also proven that the task conflict is valuable in a group project and employee activities. Conflict therefore, has a significant impact in boosting relations between management and staff. This is most effective with a suitable mediator such as trade unions. However, the unitary approach towards conflict prevents the effective mediation by trade unions and government intervention.

The unitary structure does not provide for the clear integration of the sentiments of the individual worker. Therefore, such sentiments are not efficiently integrated into the policies and objectives of the organization as is the case in some entities in Australia. The unitary ideology lacks description of the process or technique of identification of common interests among laborers. In addition, unitarianism is very normative. Human resource departments lack the fundamental guidelines to successfully implement unitarianism. Accordingly, these processes do not provide suitable conditions for the integration of trade unions in policy formulation. In addition government is limited in efforts to reaffirm its labor laws. On the other hand, pluralist perspective allows for the incorporation of different institutions such as employees, trade unions, government policies, management and other organs in organizational policy formulation (Simmons, 2008).

In unitarism, final decisions and power is determined by management. The unitary system fails to look into employee grievances based on the assumption that the system of staff rewards is designed to foster commitment and loyalty. However, this system does not provide a proper scheme in determining the needs of employees. Integrating unions is instrumental in the process of determining employee rewards. Studies that assess employee relations in Britain show that trade unions are a “lubricant” to industrial relations (Bryson et al, 2001). However, the overall administration limits the procedural association of trade unions in reward determination.

The public sector has also experienced transformation in the management structures with respect to unitarism. The effects ultimately influence the worker. The industrial relations systems in public corporations have been a subject of focus (Lucio, 2007). Within the context of Western Europe, Britain and Australia, the regulated systems within the sector are alarming to both employees and trade unionists. The adoption of the unitary system and individualized kinds of management are slowly reducing the function of government intervention and trade unions. The continuing decline in industrial relations will therefore lack a proper system of mediation by the trade unions.

The unitary structure does not provide the opportunity for collective bargaining. Collective bargaining is distinct from individual bargaining because it offers an introduction into an invaluable aspect of negotiation in the process. This does not occur frequently in individual negotiation. The individual contracts under unitarianism are therefore the product of dictated policy by the employer (Dietz, et al. 2005). Therefore, they are not the actual results of individual negotiation. Collective bargaining offers the whole industry or specific sectors with agreements that are applicable. These agreements are bound to benefit employees. This trend has been on the decline in Britain and Australia because of the adoption of the unitary system.

Unitary perspective leads to the decline in government intervention and trade union membership. The structure of employer and employee relations within unitarianism does not provide opportunities or makes them inadequate to integrate trade unions. In countries such as Britain, the membership to trade unions either has declined or has no steady growth rate (Whittal, 2008). Decline in trade union membership reduces their power in industrial relations. Trade unions derive their power through membership. Membership fees provide the unions a means of collecting revenue that is used in the protection of members and their fundamental rights. Trade unions ultimately lose their power in the process of collective bargaining. Accordingly, influence of collective bargaining is reduced.

Managers prefer the unitary system to the pluralist system of organizational control in Britain and Australia. The role of government is therefore disregarded as management does not undertake collaboration with government. The unitary system is strongly linked to the individualism of employment contracts. Employees and employers negotiate together in discussions of the terms and conditions of contracts of employment. This is undertaken without external influence such as trade unions and the government. The pluralist system allows for collective bargaining by trade unions that are external to the workplace negotiate the terms and conditions (Abbott, 2007). Employers have changed their techniques and tactics in relation to trade unions. This change is reflected in unitarianism as they compete with trade unions and avoiding confrontations. This reduces the need for staff to consider membership to trade unions.

The unitary system does not adopt a wide variety of policies that relate to employee relations. Companies are run with singular policies that are formulated and implemented by management (Boselie, et al., 2009). Therefore, employee diversity in terms of culture, background and class is overlooked. Most companies under this system implement no-union policies and do not allow for maximum engagement of trade unions. On the other hand, the pluralist system employs a wide array of policies that are related to employee relations. Companies are not limited in the adoption of staff policies. Different policies are also used to recognize and identify the apparent differences among employees. Organizations can use no-union policies, but also integrate trade unions. The unions can provide effective allies in the alignment of the organizational and individual interests as compared to the approach in employee relations.

The declining role of trade unions is credited to the government and employers. Through the adoption of unitarianism, companies have offered an alternative for staff to join the trade unions (Edgar, 2005). The government has allowed companies and organizations to implement unitarianism within management. The policies and amendments made by the government have also fostered the diminishing impact of trade unions. For instance, Britain has implemented laws that undermine the influence of trade unions. These laws make trade unions vicariously viable for numerous industrial actions undertaken by union representatives and their members (Bryson, 2005). The laws also require balloting for the strike action of particular trade unions. Companies under the unitary system take advantage of these circumstances that draw away employees from trade unions. Organizational management therefore conducts individual contracts.

The impact of Human Resource and Management has established considerable interest in the contemporary business system. Human resource has been identified as an instrumental source of business and organizational competitive advantage. The unitarist approach has been applied in numerous business entities in Britain, Australia and across the globe. However, the consequence of the system has undermined the positive influence of government intervention and trade unions. These unions help and forge for the rights of employees acting as intermediaries between employers and the staff. However, this role is slowly being reduced by unitarianism.


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