industrial relations

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industrial relations

  1. the general state of relationships between management, TRADE UNIONS and workforce.
  2. the process of determining rates of pay and conditions of employment by COLLECTIVE BARGAINING, the institutions and procedures in which this is done, and the relationships between the key people (for example SHOP STEWARDS and industrial relations managers) involved.

    Industrial relations can therefore refer to both the day-to-day relationship between workers and their supervisor and the more specialized activity of formal NEGOTIATIONS and CONSULTATION. The main subjects of industrial relations include PAY and conditions and, from the employers' perspective, achieving desired levels of productivity in part through the enforcement of work discipline. Industrial relations problems can arise where employees believe that too much effort is required from them for a given set of rewards or that work discipline is harsh or inequitable.

    Industrial relations is often also referred to as ‘labour relations’ or (more commonly today) ‘employee relations’. Many managers prefer the latter term since it is thought to avoid the connotations of conflict and trade unionism associated with both ‘industrial relations’ and ‘labour relations’.

    Within organizations, industrial relations management is often one of the duties of PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT, although in many cases negotiation over pay is done by managers whose primary responsibilities lie outside the field. Much of the day-to-day conduct of industrial relations is undertaken by LINE MANAGERS.

Collins Dictionary of Business, 3rd ed. © 2002, 2005 C Pass, B Lowes, A Pendleton, L Chadwick, D O’Reilly and M Afferson

industrial relations

the relationships between employees and employers in terms of day-to-day worker-manager dealings and the more formal procedures and institutions through which the two groups determine PAY and conditions of employment. COLLECTIVE BARGAINING is the main means used to determine pay and conditions, and where employers and workers are unable to settle these matters through negotiation, INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES, in particular STRIKES and LOCK-OUTS, may ensue unless the two parties can find alternative means of settling their disputes, such as CONCILIATION, MEDIATION and ARBITRATION.

The general state of relationships between managers and their employees, often represented as a group by TRADE UNIONS, can have significant implications for the effectiveness and competitiveness of the organization and the general health of the economy Poor industrial relations can lead to an inefficient use of labour resources, with poor labour flexibility and RESTRICTIVE LABOUR PRACTICES (overmanning, demarcation restrictions) resulting in reduced PRODUCTIVITY. In addition, strikes involving the loss of working days can seriously disrupt production and lower output. The potential conflict between employers and workers over pay and employment conditions is part of the continuing ‘tug of war’ over the share of NATIONAL INCOME going to CAPITAL and LABOUR respectively.

Because of the importance of good industrial relations in enhancing economic performance, governments have attempted to foster collaborative arrangements between employers and employees through, for example, EMPLOYEE SHARE OWNERSHIP PLANS and WORKER PARTICIPATION.

Collins Dictionary of Economics, 4th ed. © C. Pass, B. Lowes, L. Davies 2005
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