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Ol 318 Final Project - Summary of Labor Relations Principles

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OL-318:  Final Project – Summary of Labor Relations Principles

Juli Braatz

May 29, 2016

Professor Fladger

A union is an organization established by and for workers to pursue collective work goals such as wages, benefits, work rules and power.  Conflict between unions and management has been a struggle for power in the workplace.  Unions arose after the Civil War as a response to modern industrial economy.  They grew quickly from the 1930s-1950s and began to shrink from the 1960s-present day.

        Management feels they, the employers, should have the freedom to run the business as they see fit, without interference from the workers.  However, the union workers feel they deserve a say in the conditions of their labor.  One worker might be powerless but if workers acted together, they felt they could be strong enough to have a say in workplace decisions.   Overall, the goal of unions is to come together and protect employee rights.  Surprisingly, more union representatives are becoming effective communicators and are partnering with management to achieve company goals.  (History of Labor Unions, n.d.)

        Collective bargaining is a negotiation process between and employer and a group of employees to determine conditions of employment such as wages, working hours, overtime, holiday pay, sick leave, vacation time, retirement benefits, health care, training, grievance methods, and any rights to company participation.  (Collective Bargaining Basics, n.d.)  The negotiations lead to a written document being created, a Collective Bargaining Agreement or CBA.  This agreement will last for a set amount of time.  Collective bargaining began back in 1926 with the Railway Labor Act.  It was then expanded in 1935 with the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) which made it illegal for private employers to deny unions to engage in collective bargaining.  Then, in 1962, President Kennedy extended rights to all federal government employees to bargain collectively with federal agencies. (Collective Bargaining Basics, n.d.)  

        There are several trends or problems in collective bargaining.  Labor and management can benefit by creating options for dealing with their concerns that go beyond negotiations.  Timely problem solving is near impossible when bargaining is only done every three years or more.  This leads to an increase in the number of grievances during the time period of the agreement.  There needs to be exploration done on other ways to resolve problems so organizations can engage employees to move forward. (Trends in Labor-Management Relations, n.d.)

        Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) provide union workers with a voice to negotiate better wages, benefits, and working conditions.  Without the CBA and the bargaining process itself, unions wouldn’t be able to look out for the best interest of employees.  (The Benefits of Collective Bargaining, n.d.)  The agreement needs to be very specific and detailed as it is considered a written, legally enforceable contract.

        There are many benefits of having a Collective Bargaining Agreement, not only to employees and employers but also to society.  

        Importance to employees:

  • Develops a sense of self-respect and responsibility among employees
  • Increases the strength of the workforce, increasing bargaining capacity as a group
  • Increases morale and productivity
  • Restricts management’s freedom for arbitrary action against the employees
  • Workers feel motivated to be able to approach management on various matters
  • Secures a prompt and fair settlement of grievances
  • Provides a flexible means for adjustments to wages and employment conditions

Importance to employers:

  • Easier for management to resolve issues at the bargaining level rather than with individual workers
  • Promotes a sense of job security among employees and reduces the cost of labor turnover
  • Opens up the communication between workers and management and increases worker participation in decision making
  • Vital role in settling and preventing industrial disputes

Importance to society:

  • Leads to industrial peace
  • Establishes industrial climate which supports the pace of a nation’s efforts towards economic and social development
  • Consistent check on employee discrimination and exploitation
  • Provides regulation of conditions of employment for all concerned (Importance of Collective Bargaining, n.d.)

Collective bargaining varies in the public sector versus the private sector.  The private sector is usually made up of organizations that are privately owned and not part of the government (i.e. corporations, partnerships).  The public sector is made up of organizations that are owned and operated by the government; federal, provincial, state, or municipal governments based on where you live.  In public sector bargaining, unions may have advocates on both sides of the table.  Unlike private sectors firms, public agencies cannot move their operations to an area with lower labor costs.  (Collective Bargaining, n.d.)  The main difference between private and public sector bargaining comes down to consumer choice.   For example, if a business like a pharmacy decides to negotiate a contract the specified costly wages and therefore drove up the price of goods sold, the customers would choose another business to shop at.  The public sector has no such competitive forces.   Public sector unions experience little external pressure to modify their demands.  (Public and Private Sector, n.d.)

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