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To begin with, employee relations in the public sector have from a general point been ridden by conflict for some time. In essence, employee relations is a term used as a substitution of the word industrial relations of which in this case it refers to the body of work which is in particular meant to deal with the employee-employer relationships maintenance. This is a body that contributes so much to the agreeable productivity in the workplace, improvements in terms of the employee morale and at the same time the employee motivation. Notably, employee relation is known in the cases whereby problems in relation to this relationship arise.
There are several reasons that have been attributed to this factor and as such, it is important to bring them into view. Generally, the relationships between employees and employers have been in conflict owing to the fact that the unions that the employees form in order to attain collective bargaining experience intra-union constrains. So to speak, some of the employees differ in terms of power ranks.
At the same time, the unions are sometimes influenced by the politics of the particular governments. This is given to the reason that the government is the one responsible for giving the preconditions for the formation of the employee trade unions. From one side, the unions were faced with the problem of their employers being more influential to the government a factor that left employee-employer relationship being in more conflict than anticipated.
Implementing excellent management in local government offers all the must do for integrative bargaining to take place. In this sense, it covers both the justifiable attendance of renowned unions and through the pursuit of an issue in which organization, employees and job unions may have shared interests. Sometimes, the mutual interest anticipated may not be achievable and as such, this may bring conflicts between the employees. In line with this point, there is the UNISON which is the largest trade union in the UK. Since its creation in 1993, UNISON has experienced both success and failures and as such, scrutinizing its failures will bring about the reasons for conflicts amongst employees.
As a matter of fact, UNISON has its conflicts attributed to the differences held amongst the member employees of the Union activists and the employees from the larger point of view. For instance, Terry (2000) asserts that rival perceptions of NALGO as a member-led and NUPE as officer-led was brought about by strongly-held differences between the very unions activities relating to the best way through which they would lead the Union. In correspondence to this point, proportionality and fair representation of the union members has been cited as another point of conflict whereby members engage in conflicts if it happens that there are some points of underrepresentation. In the same line of thought, governance structures whereby the union seeks to improve on its numerical dominance by women and at the same time ensure that the voices of all groups are recognized and heard may bring about a point of conflict.
Most of the times, Union members are in face to face with issues of union management. As such, it has been argued that in order to function effectively there is need for unions to employ effective management. Arguably, this has not been the case as many employees have opposed it in the fear that they might lose their democratic powers in matters of decision making. So to speak, it has been so hard for union management to survive without conflicts. Needless to say, there has as well been the issue of the impact that the 1997-2001 labour Government’s public policy on the British trade unions. In connection to this point, determining the unity of the labour movement brought about disagreements born out of ideological incompatibility and the issues of dissatisfaction in the interests of the unions.
In the same way, the year 2002 witnessed the greatest conflict between trade unions and labour government owing to the fact that new labour modernizers did not favour the trade unions. In fact they felt that their rights were infringed in the issues of the private finance initiative. As well, they felt that the labour government was more dictatorial and did not give them room to express themselves since they as well insisted in the union membership size.
As a matter of fact, trade unions and the local governments have continually been in disagreements and as such, employee relations can thus be said that they have been conflict ridden. Focusing on the year 2001 in the UK, there was an aspect of difficulties facing the Labour government as it was confronted while developing a consistent programme of public-sector upgrading. In actual sense, the government had difficulties responding to employment and retention problems and prevalent perceptions of public-sector ‘predicament’.
In reference to the case of the postal workers in Britain, it is best termed as an organization that came into being as a result of members who were not contented. Intra-union oppositional groupings of activists who employed the strategy of small activists acting within a conducive environment of the larger organization to bring about internal strife and worker confrontations brought about employee relations conflicts. Again in this context, there is also the issue of adopting mutual gains approach to workplace industrial relations a factor that has continually bred issues of union representatives together with employees developing aspects of competing points of views in terms of social partnership. Procedures to create a pluralistic environment of work became a big problem.
Given to the point that the employee relations entail the employment relationships that take in collective representation of employees in the form of labour union, it is imperative to explore whether they can be a source of conflict. As well, there have been economical conflicts between employees and employers on conditions of wok and the resulting compensation. There have also been constant conflicts resulting from superior-subordinate relations between the employee and employers in addition to the economical conflicts of interests. In addition, there have as well been issues of innate dissimilarity of bargaining power in the majority individual employer-employee relationships and thus this has been a point of conflicts thought out to be solved in a trade union’s context.
Basically, employee relations entail the workers and their organizations, the government and the management. Moreover, the distribution of power and labour markets along with the society at large play a key role in shaping the employee relations. Furthermore, there is also the collective bargaining, judicial and legislation processes which as well work towards shaping the employee relations. Equally important, there are also the unilateral decisions of management which contribute greatly to the employee relations. Needless to say, there is also the difference in ideology whereby if there are disagreements, then, it is inevitable that conflicts will arise. Another point to note is that wages, benefits, work relation rules, disciplinary actions for workers, issues of employment security, efficiency in productivity, job satisfaction, peace and conflict in work along with the issues of democracy bring about conflicts.
In relation to the given points, it is evident that conflicts arise as a result of dissatisfaction of the employee-employer relationship in respect to all the areas that govern their relationship. For quiet a long time, the employee job satisfaction has been associated with inconsistencies. From a general point of view, employee relations conflicts are caused by issues of compensation. In this connection, these are the most common conflicts as they result from frictions that arise between management and employees in a case whereby compensation is not to a point of satisfaction. This entails the issues of wages, salary and other related benefits. In combination to this point, policy can act as source of conflict in employee relations. Following this point, details of a company’s policy may act as a source of employee relation conflicts in a situation whereby employees may feel that the proviso of the policy is either illegal, unfair, and may be unethical, a factor that may bring conflict while negotiating with the management in pursuit of policy amendment.
In relation to this point, personal or sick days’ policy has been associated with employee relation conflicts owing to the fact that employees may be uncomfortable with the vacation days which they may sometimes go unpaid together with sick days from the larger point of view. In combination to this point, other conflicts may arise due to layoffs which the employees may feel uncomfortable with. This happens in cases whereby the management may carry out the layoffs with the sole aim of saving the company extra expenses. Sometimes, strikes may be done by one company employees and in order to show support and unity with it, other employees from other companies may follow in the act. As such, this is a source of conflict whereby the other employees are influenced by the others to do so.
Again in this context, better wages and working conditions have been pointed out as the main reasons for conflicts in employee relations in the public sector. This is to suggest that since the public sector is owned by the government, it has had a tendency to take advantage of workers given that it is controlled by politicians who happen to be powerful and in most cases they oppress the workers due to their positions.
In fact, the future implications of the conflicts in employee relations is that there is going to be even more conflicts if the public sector if the public sector is not ready to style up and put up policies that are fair. As well, the public sector should improve on its relationship with employees since it has been ruled by conflict from the past and even now. Needless to say, much needs to be done in the future in order to avoid such an occurrence since as compared to the private sector the private sector has been associated with very few conflicts in relation to employee relations.
The suggestions or recommendations for the future should try to address the points of conflicts. For instance, the public sector should seek to improve on the compensation of the employees by improving on their salaries, wages and benefits accordingly. Accordingly, layoff policy should be well documented in the sense that it will not treat the employees unfairly and in case of such an issue the employees should be compensated. The public sector or the government should put in place policies that do not oppress the employees but rather should consider personal or sick days’ policy and as such, the employees should be given paid vacations and sick days as it is in the private sector.
Government or public sector policies should be in a position to ensure that they follow fair, ethical and legal requirements and this is to suggest that they should be operated in a manner that they respect the dignity of the employees. It is also impetrative for the government and the trade unions to consider and develop interpersonal communications and conflict-management skills in order to be in a better position to manage employee relations.
Broadly speaking, there is a great need for the employee relations in the public sector to be given great attention since from the past it has been associated with great conflicts. The Government is required to make certain that it has a comprehensible policy for building positive employee relations as part of the revolutionize program and as such, it should seek to build its relationships with the trade unions.
It is also advisable to Change balloting requirements for industrial action as this can reduce the occurrence of a strikes. It has been argued in the past that capability of the public to face the changes required by the recession has been so hard. As such taking action to reduce costs without sacrificing employee support or provoking confrontation with their unions is required in the public sector if the conflicts are to be dealt with. The management of the employment relationship and seeking to maintain employee morale and motivation should be the goal of the public sector in the future and as such, the relationship between the employer and employee should be built.
The activities of most governments across the globe are marred with numerous malpractices, most of which force employers to act in unethical manner. For instance, the tendering process and generally the aspect of accountability lack in most government structures. Therefore, conflicts have been found to emerge in cases whereby the senior officers in the government force junior officers to engage in these malpractices. In reference to Washington (1997), more direct contact with public money – coupled with fewer controls over its use – may increase the temptation and the opportunities to indulge in corrupt or fraudulent practices and make conflicts of interest more likely.
It is important to understand that most employees in the public sector across the globe are used by their seniors to accomplish their management malpractices. For instance, major public scandals are carried out by junior employees under the instructions of their seniors. In this regard, junior employees who are unwilling to engage in such practices would often find themselves dealing directly or rather fighting with their seniors.
Conflicts also arise from the fact that most public institutions had the traditional management system in place, i.e. doing things by the ‘book’. However, as a result of competition from the private sector, most of these institutions have been going through a transformation by introducing new forms of public management. Therefore, the introduction of new methods of management results into conflicts; public employees prefer the traditional methods of management as opposed to new forms of public management. Note that with the new forms of public management, most of these employees face the risk of being retrenched. In this regard, most of them resist the introduction of the new forms of management as a way of ‘securing’ their jobs. This resistance, with pressure from the top result in conflicts that in some cases are unmanageable.
From a broader point of view, the government is a sovereign body of which it is entitled to deal with important issues of the public with the example of education, healthcare services, social services, police and defence force among others as such serving the nation as whole. In this line of thought, conflicts have ruled the public sector since the sector is run by the government which happens to be politically motivated rather than being economically motivated. In essence, the government sovereignty gives it power to use force to compel and in this case it forces the employees to give services at the dictates of the government. This is the reason why most of the public sector employees are poorly paid since they are mandated to sacrifice to the government through some selected representatives. This is done in exchange for security, order and the good of the public. So to speak, this has been a source of most of conflicts since the government has been dictating employees who react by striking.
In relation to this point, the public sector has been pointed out as to have limited resources a factor that may make public employees feel underpaid, fatigued by the constantly changing environment and job insecurity. At the same time, the employees are pressured for results even when ethics are not observed. Another point to note is that restructuring of the public sector into freer private-like sector raises issues of unfairness in the public sector.
So to articulate, the public sector is bound to lose employees in the future owing to the kind of an environment of work that they give to the employees. Notably, issues of corruption in the public sector have a consequence of economical breakdown in the future since the government serves politics rather than the economy. In the same line of thought, it is also presumed that in the future, the private sector which offers better working conditions and pay will gain more employees. This is to suggest that the public sector with time will diminish while on other hand the private sector developing more along with the aspect of gaining more popularity.
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