Wider Approaches to Industrial Relations

Definition of Industrial Relations

Industrial Relations or IR shows the relationship between the management and the workmen within the industry and the role of a regulatory body to resolve the industrial disputes.

IR is perceived differently by a different group of behavioral practitioners and theorists. Some believed that IR is related to the Class Conflict while some perceived it in terms of Mutual Co-operation and still others perceived it in terms of Competing Interests of various groups. On the basis of these perceptions, there are four popular approaches to Industrial Relations.

1. Psychological Approach 

The problems of IR have their origin in the perceptions of the management, unions and the workers. The conflicts between labour and management occur because every group negatively perceives the behaviour of the other i.e. even the honest intention of the other party so looked at with suspicion. The problem is further aggravated by various factors like the income, level of education, communication, values, beliefs, customs, goals of persons and groups, prestige, power, status, recognition, security etc are host factors both economic and non-economic which influence perceptions unions and management towards each other. Industrial peace is a result mainly of proper attitudes and perception of the two parties.

2. Sociological Approach 

Industry is a social world in miniature. The management goals, workers’ attitudes, perception of change in industry, are all, in turn, decided by broad social factors like the culture of the institutions, customs, structural changes, status-symbols, rationality, acceptance or resistance to change, tolerance etc. Industry is, thus inseparable from the society in which it functions. Through the main function of an industry is economic, its social consequences are also important such as urbanization, social mobility, housing and transport problem in industrial areas, disintegration of family structure, stress and strain, etc. As industries develop, a new industrial-cum-social pattern emerges, which provides general new relationships, institutions and behavioural pattern and new techniques of handling human resources. These do influence the development of industrial relations.

3. Human relations Approach 

Human resources are made up of living human beings. They want freedom of speech, of thought of expression, of movement, etc. When employers treat them as inanimate objects, encroach on their expectations, throat-cuts, conflicts and tensions arise. In fact major problems in industrial relations arise out of a tension which is created because of the employer’s pressures and workers’ reactions, protests and resistance to these pressures through protective mechanisms in the form of workers’ organization, associations and trade unions.

Through tension is more direct in work place; gradually it extends to the whole industry and sometimes affects the entire economy of the country. Therefore, the management must realize that efforts are made to set right the situation. Services of specialists in Behavioural Sciences are used to deal with such related problems. Assistance is also taken from economists, anthropologists, psychiatrists, pedagogists, tec. In resolving conflicts, understanding of human behavior – both individual and groups – is a pre-requisite for the employers, the union leaders and the government – more so for the management. Conflicts cannot be resolved unless the management must learn and know what the basic what the basic needs of men are and how they can be motivated to work effectively.

4. Marxist Approach

The Marxist approach looks at industrial relations from a societal perspective. It views industrial relations as a microcosm of the wider capitalist society. The basic assumption of this approach is that industrial relations under capitalism are an everlasting and unavoidable source of conflict According to this approach, industrial conflicts are the central reality of industrial relations, but open conflicts are uncommon.The Marxist approach views industrial disputes as a class struggle and industrial relations as a politicized concept and an element of the class struggle. As per the Marxist approach, the understanding of industrial relations requires an understanding of the capitalized society, the social relations of production and the mechanism of capital accumulation.

The Marxist approach views the power relationship between the two classes, namely, the employer and the employee , as the crux of the industrial relations. Both classes struggle hard to consolidate their respective positions so that they can have a greater leverage over the other in the process of bargaining. The proponents of this approach perceive that the employers can survive longer without labour than the employees can without work. As far as theory is concerned, the compensation payable to the employees is an outcome of the power struggle. For instance, the employers seek to maximize their profits by paying less compensation to the employees, while the latter resist such attempts, and this resistance results in industrial conflicts. However, the weakness of this theory is that it is narrow in approach as it views industrial relations as a product or outcome of the industrial conflict.

5. John Dunlop Approach

John dunlop put forth his theory on industrial labour relations in 1950. According to dunlop, the modern industrial relations system consists of three players:

  1. Management organizations i.e., employers.
  2. Workers and formal/informal ways they are organized i.e., labour unions and
  3. Government agencies.

These players and their organizations are located within three environmental constraints: the market,distribution of power in society and technology. Within this environment, the players interact with each other,negotiate and use economic/political power in the process of determining rules that constitute the output of the industrial relations system. Dunlop’s model identifies three key factors to be kept in mind while conducting an analysis of the management-labour relationship:

  1. Environmental or external factors,economic,technology,political,legal and social forces that impact employment relationships.
  2. Characteristics and interactions of the key players in the employment relationship,labour,management and the government.
  3. Rules that are derived from these interaction and which govern the employment relationship.

6. Gandhian Approach

Gandhian approach to industrial relation is based upon fundamental principal of truth,non-violence and non-possession. This approach presumes the peaceful co-existence of capital and labour. Gandhiji emphasized that if the employers follow the principle of trusteeship than there is no scope of conflict of interest between labour and management, gandhiji accepted the workers right to strike, but cautioned that they should exercise this right for a just cause and in a peaceful and non-violence manner and this method should only be resorted when all methods failed in getting employers response.

Gandhi advocated the following rules to resolve industrial conflicts:

  1. Workers should seek redressal of reasonable demands through collective action.
  2. Trade unions should decide to go on strike taking ballot authority from all workers and remain peaceful and use non-violent methods.
  3. Workers should avoid strikes to the possible extent.