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Industrial relations or employment relations is the multidisciplinary academic field that studies the employment relationship; that is, the complex interrelations between
employer Employment is the relationship between two party (law), parties, usually based on a employment contract, contract where work is paid for, where one party, which may be a corporation, for profit, not-for-profit organization, co-operative or ot ...
s and
employee Employment is the relationship between two party (law), parties, usually based on a employment contract, contract where work is paid for, where one party, which may be a corporation, for profit, not-for-profit organization, co-operative or ot ...

employee
s, labor/trade unions, employer organizations and the state. The newer name, "employment relations" is increasingly taking precedence because "industrial relations" is often seen to have relatively narrow connotations. Nevertheless, industrial relations has frequently been concerned with employment relationships in the broadest sense, including "non-industrial" employment relationships. This is sometimes seen as paralleling a trend in the separate but related discipline of
human resource management Human resource management (HRM or HR) is the strategic approach to the effective and efficient management of people in a company or organization such that they help their business gain a competitive advantage In business, a competitive advantage ...
. While some scholars regard or treat industrial/employment relations as synonymous with employee relations and
labour relations Labor relations is a field of study that can have different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. In an international context, it is a subfield of labor history Labor history or labour history is a sub-discipline of social histor ...
, this is controversial, because of the narrower focus of employee/labour relations, i.e. on employees or labour, from the perspective of employers, managers and/or officials. In addition, employee relations is often perceived as dealing only with non-unionized workers, whereas labour relations is seen as dealing with
organized labour Organizing or organized may refer to: * Organizing (management) Organizating or organising is the establishment of effective authority relationships among selected work, persons and work places in order for the group to work together efficiently ...
, i.e unionized workers. Some academics, universities and other institutions regard human resource management as synonymous with one or more of the above disciplines, although this too is controversial.


Overview

Industrial relations examines various employment situations, not just ones with a unionized workforce. However, according to Bruce E. Kaufman, "To a large degree, most scholars regard
trade union A trade union (or a labor union in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native ...
ism,
collective bargaining Collective bargaining is a process of negotiation Negotiation is a between two or more people or parties intended to reach a beneficial outcome over one or more issues where a conflict exists with respect to at least one of these issu ...
and labour–
management Management (or managing) is the administration of an organization An organization, or organisation (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spok ...

management
relations, and the national labour po Initiated in the United States at end of the 19th century, it took off as a field in conjunction with the
New Deal The New Deal was a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations Regulation is the management of complex systems according to a set of rules and trends. In systems theory Systems theory is the interdisciplina ...
. However, it is generally regarded as a separate field of study only in English-speaking countries, having no direct equivalent in continental Europe. In recent times, industrial relations has been in decline as a field, in correlation with the decline in importance of trade unions and also with the increasing preference of
business school A business school is a university-level institution that confers degrees in business administration Business administration (also known as business management) is the administration of a commercial enterprise. It includes all aspects of overse ...

business school
s for the human resource
management paradigmManagement fad is a term used to characterize a change in philosophy or operations implemented by a business or institution. The term is Subjectivity, subjective and tends to be used in a pejorative sense, as it implies that such a change is being i ...
. Industrial relations has three faces: science building, problem solving, and ethical. In the science building phase, industrial relations is part of the
social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist o ...

social science
s, and it seeks to understand the
employment Employment is the relationship between two parties Image:'Hip, Hip, Hurrah! Artist Festival at Skagen', by Peder Severin Krøyer (1888) Demisted with DXO PhotoLab Clearview; cropped away black border edge.jpg, 300px, ''Hip, Hip, Hurrah!'' ...

employment
relationship and its institutions through high-quality, rigorous research. In this vein, industrial relations scholarship intersects with scholarship in
labour economics Labour economics seeks to understand the functioning and dynamics of the markets Market may refer to: *Market (economics) *Market economy *Marketplace, a physical marketplace or public market Geography *Märket, an island shared by Finlan ...
,
industrial sociology Industrial sociology, until recently a crucial research area within the field of sociology of work, examines "the direction and implications of trends in technological Technology ("science of craft", from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''techne'' ...
,
labour Labour or labor may refer to: * Childbirth Childbirth, also known as labour or delivery, is the ending of pregnancy where one or more babies leaves the uterus by passing through the vagina or by Caesarean section. In 2015, there were about 13 ...
and
social history Social history, often called the new social history, is a field of history History (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Rep ...
,
human resource management Human resource management (HRM or HR) is the strategic approach to the effective and efficient management of people in a company or organization such that they help their business gain a competitive advantage In business, a competitive advantage ...
,
political science Political science is the scientific study of politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions In psychology, decision-making (also spelled decision making and decisionmaking) is regarded as ...
,
law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its bounda ...
, and other areas. Industrial relations scholarship assumes that labour markets are not perfectly competitive and thus, in contrast to mainstream
economic theory Economics () is a social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a bran ...
, employers typically have greater bargaining power than employees. Industrial relations scholarship also assumes that there are at least some inherent conflicts of interest between employers and employees (for example, higher wages versus higher profits) and thus, in contrast to scholarship in human resource management and
organizational behaviour Organizational behavior (OB) or organisational behaviour is the: "study of human behavior Human behavior is the potential and expressed capacity ( mentally, physically, and socially) of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most po ...
, conflict is seen as a natural part of the employment relationship. Industrial relations scholars therefore frequently study the diverse institutional arrangements that characterize and shape the employment relationship—from norms and power structures on the shop floor, to employee voice mechanisms in the workplace, to
collective bargaining Collective bargaining is a process of negotiation Negotiation is a between two or more people or parties intended to reach a beneficial outcome over one or more issues where a conflict exists with respect to at least one of these issu ...
arrangements at company, regional, or national level, to various levels of public policy and
labour law Labour laws (also known as labor laws or employment laws) are those that mediate the relationship between workers, employing entities, trade union A trade union (or a labor union in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, ...
regimes, to varieties of
capitalism Capitalism is an economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system A system is a group of interacting Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. The idea o ...

capitalism
(such as
corporatism Corporatism is a collectivist Collectivism is a value that is characterized by emphasis on cohesiveness among individuals and prioritization of the group over the self. Individuals or groups that subscribe to a collectivist worldview tend t ...
,
social democracy Social democracy is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions In psychology, decision-making (also spelled decision making and decisionmaking) is regarded as the Cognition, cognit ...
, and
neoliberalism Neoliberalism, or neo-liberalism, is a term used to describe the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with free-market In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with valu ...

neoliberalism
). When labour markets are seen as imperfect, and when the employment relationship includes conflicts of interest, then one cannot rely on markets or
manager Management (or managing) is the administration of an organization, whether it is a business, a not-for-profit, non-profit organization, or a government body. It is the art and science of managing resources. Management includes the activities ...

manager
s to always serve workers' interests, and in extreme cases to prevent worker exploitation. Industrial relations scholars and practitioners, therefore, support institutional interventions to improve the workings of the employment relationship and to protect workers' rights. The nature of these institutional interventions, however, differ between two camps within industrial relations. The pluralist camp sees the employment relationship as a mixture of shared interests and conflicts of interests that are largely limited to the employment relationship. In the workplace, pluralists, therefore, champion
grievance A grievance () is a wrong A wrong (from Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Ang ...
procedures,
employee voiceEmployee voice refers to the participation of employees in influencing organisational decision making. Because research and analysis have grown around the voice concept in a variety of disciplines, ‘employee voice’ has become an elastic term ...
mechanisms such as
works council A works council is a shop-floor organization representing workers that functions as a local/firm-level complement to trade union A trade union (or a labor union in American English), often simply referred to as a union, is an organization of w ...
s and
trade union A trade union (or a labor union in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native ...
s, collective bargaining, and labour–management partnerships. In the policy arena, pluralists advocate for
minimum wage A minimum wage is the lowest remuneration Remuneration is the pay or other financial compensationFinancial compensation refers to the act of providing a person with money Image:National-Debt-Gillray.jpeg, In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, ...
laws,
occupational health and safety Occupational safety and health (OSH), also commonly referred to as occupational health and safety (OHS), occupational health, or occupational safety, is a multidisciplinary field concerned with the safety Safety is the state of being "safe ...
standards,
international labour standards International labour law is the body of rules spanning public In public relations and communication science, publics are groups of individual people, and the public (a.k.a. the general public) is the totality of such groupings. This is a diff ...
, and other employment and labour laws and public policies. These institutional interventions are all seen as methods for balancing the employment relationship to generate not only economic efficiency but also employee equity and voice. In contrast, the
Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. In general it analyzes how modern society, societies soci ...
-inspired critical camp sees employer–employee conflicts of interest as sharply antagonistic and deeply embedded in the socio-political-economic system. From this perspective, the pursuit of a balanced employment relationship gives too much weight to employers' interests, and instead deep-seated structural reforms are needed to change the sharply antagonistic employment relationship that is inherent within capitalism. Militant trade unions are thus frequently supported.


History

Industrial relations has its roots in the
industrial revolution The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent A continent is any of several large landmasse ...
which created the modern employment relationship by spawning free labour markets and large-scale industrial organizations with thousands of wage workers. As society wrestled with these massive economic and social changes, labour problems arose. Low wages, long working hours, monotonous and dangerous work, and abusive supervisory practices led to high employee turnover, violent strikes, and the threat of social instability. Intellectually, industrial relations was formed at the end of the 19th century as a middle ground between classical economics and
Marxism Marxism is a method of socioeconomic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. In general it analyzes how modern society, societies soci ...
, with
Sidney Webb Sidney James Webb, 1st Baron Passfield, (13 July 1859 – 13 October 1947) was a British socialist, economist and reformer, who co-founded the London School of Economics , mottoeng = To understand the causes of things , established = 189 ...

Sidney Webb
and
Beatrice Webb Martha Beatrice Webb, Baroness Passfield, (née Potter; 22 January 1858 – 30 April 1943), was an English sociologist, economist, socialist, labour historian and social reformer. It was Webb who coined the term ''collective bargaining Col ...
's ''
Industrial Democracy Industrial democracy is an arrangement which involves workers making decisions, sharing responsibility and authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, ...
'' (1897) being a key intellectual work. Industrial relations thus rejected the classical econ. Institutionally, industrial relations was founded by
John R. Commons John Rogers Commons (October 13, 1862 – May 11, 1945) was an American institutional economist Institutional economics focuses on understanding the role of the evolutionary Evolution is change in the Heredity, heritable Phenotypic trait ...
when he created the first academic industrial relations program at the
University of Wisconsin A university () is an educational institution, institution of higher education, higher (or Tertiary education, tertiary) education and research which awards academic degrees in several Discipline (academia), academic disciplines. Universities typi ...
in 1920. Another scholarly pioneer in industrial relations and labour research was
Robert F. Hoxie
Robert F. Hoxie
. Early financial support for the field came from
John D. Rockefeller Jr. John Davison Rockefeller Jr. (January 29, 1874 – May 11, 1960) was an American financier and philanthropist, and the only son of Standard Oil Standard Oil Co. was an American -producing, transporting, refining, and marketing . Establishe ...

John D. Rockefeller Jr.
who supported progressive labour–management relations in the aftermath of the bloody strike at a Rockefeller-owned coal mine in Colorado. In Britain, another progressive industrialist,
Montague Burton Sir Montague Maurice Burton (15 August 1885 – 21 September 1952) was the founder of Burton Menswear, one of Britain's largest chains of clothes shops. Early life Born a Lithuanian Jews, Lithuanian Jew (Meshe David Osinsky) in Kurkliai ...

Montague Burton
, endowed chairs in industrial relations at the universities of
Leeds Leeds is the largest city in the county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers (publis ...
,
Cardiff Cardiff (; cy, Caerdydd ) is the capital city of Wales and a Local government in Wales, county. Officially known as the City and County of Cardiff, it is the United Kingdom's eleventh-largest city and the main commercial centre of Wales. Cardi ...
, and
Cambridge Cambridge ( ) is a university city and the county town In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' ...
in 1929–1930. Beginning in the early 1930s there was a rapid increase in membership of
trade unions in the United States Labor unions in the United States are organizations that represent workers in many industries recognized under US labor law since the 1935 enactment of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, National Labor Relations Act. Their activity today c ...
, and with that came frequent and sometimes violent labour–management conflict. During the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
these were suppressed by the arbitration powers of the National War Labor Board. However, as the Second World War drew to a close and in anticipation of a renewal of labour–management conflict after the war, there was a wave of creations of new academic institutes and degree programs that sought to analyse such conflicts and the role of collective bargaining. The most known of these was the
Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations The New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) is an industrial relations school at Cornell University, located in Ithaca, New York, United States. The School has six academic departments which include: Economics, Human Resource ...
, founded in 1945. But counting various forms, there were over seventy-five others. These included the
Yale Labor and Management Center The Yale Labor and Management Center was a research center that was part of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. It was founded in late 1944 or 1945 and existed until 1958 or 1959. Its stated mission was to engage in "the study of the basic ...
, directed by E. Wight Bakke, which began in 1945. An influential industrial relations scholar in the 1940s and 1950s was Neil W. Chamberlain at
Yale Yale University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly two ...
and
Columbia Columbia may refer to: * Columbia (personification), the historical female national personification of the United States, and a poetic name for the Americas Places North America Natural features * Columbia Plateau, a geologic and geographic regio ...

Columbia
universities. In the 1950s, industrial relations was formalized as a distinct academic discipline with the emergence in the UK of the so-called "Oxford school", including Allan Flanders, Hugh Clegg, and Alan Fox, Lord William McCarthy, Sir George Bain (all of whom taught at
Nuffield College, Oxford Nuffield College () is one of the Colleges of the University of Oxford, constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. It is a graduate college and specialises in the social sciences, particularly economics, politics and sociology ...

Nuffield College, Oxford
), as well as
Otto Kahn-Freund Sir Otto Kahn-Freund Queen's Counsel, QC (17 November 1900 – 16 August 1979) was a scholar of labour law and comparative law. He was a professor at the London School of Economics and the University of Oxford. Biography Kahn-Freund was born i ...
(
Brasenose College, Oxford Brasenose College (BNC), officially The Principal and Scholars of the King’s Hall and College of Brasenose in Oxford, is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford The University of Oxford is a collegiate university, coll ...

Brasenose College, Oxford
). Industrial relations was formed with a strong problem-solving orientation that rejected both the classical economists' ''
laissez-faire ''Laissez-faire'' ( ; from french: laissez faire , ) is an economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system A system is a group of interacting Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects hav ...
'' solutions to labour problems and the Marxist solution of class revolution. It is this approach that underlies the
New Deal The New Deal was a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations Regulation is the management of complex systems according to a set of rules and trends. In systems theory Systems theory is the interdisciplina ...
legislation in the United States, such as the
National Labor Relations Act The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (also known as the Wagner Act) is a foundational statute of that guarantees the right of private sector employees to organize into s, engage in , and take such as s. Central to the act was a ban on s. Th ...

National Labor Relations Act
and the
Fair Labor Standards Act The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) is a United States labor law that creates the right to a minimum wage, and "time-and-a-half" overtime pay when people work over forty hours a week. It also prohibits employment of Minor (law), mino ...
. By the early 21st century, the academic field of industrial relations was often described as being in crisis. In academia, its traditional positions are threatened on one side by the dominance of mainstream economics and organizational behaviour, and on the other by
postmodernism Postmodernism is an intellectual stance or mode of discourse defined by an attitude of philosophical skepticism, skepticism toward what it describes as the meta-narrative, grand narratives and ideology, ideologies of modernism, as well as oppos ...
. In policy-making circles, the industrial relations emphasis on institutional intervention is trumped by a neoliberal emphasis on the ''laissez-faire'' promotion of
free market In economics Economics () is a social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of pl ...
s. In practice, trade unions are declining and fewer companies have industrial relations functions. The number of academic programs in industrial relations is therefore shrinking, while fields such as human resource management and organizational behaviour grow. The importance of this work, however, is stronger than ever, and the lessons of industrial relations remain vital. The challenge for industrial relations is to re-establish these connections with the broader academic, policy, and business worlds.


Theoretical perspectives

Industrial relations scholars such as Alan Fox have described three major theoretical perspectives or frameworks, that contrast in their understanding and analysis of workplace relations. The three views are generally known as unitarism, pluralism, and the radical or critical school. Each offers a particular perception of workplace relations and will, therefore, interpret such events as workplace conflict, the role of unions and job regulation differently. The perspective of the critical school is sometimes referred to as the ''
conflict Conflict may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Films *Conflict (1921 film), ''Conflict'' (1921 film), an American silent film directed by Stuart Paton * Conflict (1936 film), ''Conflict'' (1936 film), an American boxing film starr ...
model'', although this is somewhat ambiguous, as pluralism also tends to see conflict as inherent in workplaces. Radical theories are strongly identified with Marxist theories, although they are not limited to these.


Pluralist perspective

In pluralism, the organization is perceived as being made up of divergent sub-groups, each with its own legitimate interests and loyalties and with their own set of objectives and leaders. In particular, the two predominant sub-groups in the pluralist perspective are the management and trade unions. The pluralist perspective also supports that conflict is inherent in dealing with industrial relations since different sub-groups have different opinions in the day-to-day operations. Consequently, the role of management would lean less towards enforcing and controlling and more toward persuasion and coordination. Trade unions are deemed legitimate representatives of employees, conflict is resolved through collective bargaining and is viewed not necessarily as a bad thing and, if managed, could, in fact, be channeled towards evolution and positive change.


Unitarist perspective

In unitarism, the organization is perceived as an integrated and harmonious whole with the idea of "one happy family" in which management and other members of the staff all share a common purpose by emphasizing mutual co-operation. Furthermore, unitarism has a paternalistic approach: it demands loyalty of all employees and is managerial in its emphasis and application. Consequently, trade unions are deemed unnecessary since the loyalty between employees and organizations are considered mutually exclusive, and there cannot be two sides of industry. Conflict is perceived as the result of poor management.


Radical or critical perspective

This view of industrial relations looks at the nature of the capitalist society, where there is a fundamental division of interest between capital and labour, and sees workplace relations against this background. This perspective sees inequalities of power and economic wealth as having their roots in the nature of the capitalist economic system. Conflict is therefore seen as a natural outcome of capitalism, thus it is inevitable and trade unions are a natural response of workers to their exploitation by capital. Whilst there may be periods of acquiescence, the Marxist view would be that institutions of joint regulation would enhance rather than limit management's position as they presume the continuation of capitalism rather than challenge it.


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* * * * * * * * * *


External links

* {{Authority control Business law