Managing Employment Relationship

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Managing the Employment Relationship

Managing the Employment Relationship


A broad definition of employment relations (ER) includes all aspects of the employment relationship, including industrial relations (IR) and human resource management (HRM). IR may be regarded as dealing more with the macro and institutional aspects of the employment relationship, while HRM can be seen as focusing rather on the microand enterprise-level aspects; each is complementary to the other. (Bamber, Lansbury & Wailes 2004, 486) The term ER is sometimes used in the literature to reflect the interconnectedness of labor-management relations, IR, and HRM.

Conceptual Overview

Although the study of ER focuses on the regulation of work, it must also take account of the wider economic and social influences on the relative power of capital and labor, and the interactions among employers, workers, their collective organizations, and the state. A full understanding of ER requires an interdisciplinary approach that uses analytical tools drawn from several academic fields, including accounting, economics, history, law, politics, psychology, sociology, and other elements of management studies.

One can focus on ER at various levels, including the workplace; enterprise; industry; locality, state, or province; the nation; or at an international level. There is much to be gained from adopting an internationally comparative approach to ER. However, this requires not only insights from several disciplines, but also knowledge of different national contexts. Some scholars distinguish between comparative and international studies in this field. Comparative ER may involve describing and systematically analyzing two or more countries. By contrast, international ER involves exploring institutions and phenomena that cross national boundaries, such as the labor market roles and the behavior of inter-governmental organizations (e.g., International Labor Organization), multinational enterprises (MNEs), and unions. This is a useful distinction, but this entry inclines toward a broader perspective whereby internationally comparative ER includes a range of studies that traverse boundaries between countries. (Bamber & Sheldon 2004, 509-548)

There are several reasons why it is beneficial to study internationally comparative ER. Such a focus provides a contribution to one's knowledge about ER in different countries and a source of models for policy development. Increased economic interconnectedness associated with globalization has produced a greater need for information about ER practices in other countries and has led to a resurgence of interest in internationally comparative ER. Such comparative analysis offers possibilities for theoretical development and an understanding of the impact of globalization on national patterns of ER.

There are many different approaches and theories regarding industrial relations nowadays. In order to mount an opinion on which is the 'best' or most appropriate theory of industrial relations, each theory will have to be analyzed. The three most prevalent theories of industrial relations which exist are The Unitarist theory, The Pluralist theory and The Marxist theory. Each offers a particular perception of workplace relations and will therefore interpret such events as workplace conflict, the role of trade unions and job regulation very differently. I will examine each of these theories in turn and then formulate my own opinion regarding which is the 'best' or most appropriate ...
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