Approaches to Industrial Relations

Industrial relations are interpreted from various dimensions. A well founded understanding of these dimensions of industrial relations is benchmark knowledge of human resource managers because they provide the ideological perspectives of industrial relations. The approaches are discussed below:
1. Unitary approach
2. Pluralistic approach
3. Marxian approach
4. Social action approach
5. System / Dunlop approach
6. HRD approach

1. Unitary approach: The unitary approach is based on the assumptions that organization is an integrated group of people with single authority / loyalty structure and set of common values, interests and objectives are shared by all members of the organizations. Farnham and Pimlott, who are pioneers of this approach, mentioned that there is no conflict of interests between those supplying capital to the enterprise and those are complementary partners to the common aims of production, profits and pay in which everyone in the organization has a stake.
This approach has two important implications:

a. Conflict is perceived as an irrational activity.
b. Trade unions are regarded as intruders into the organization from outside competing with management for the loyalty of employee.

2. Pluralistic approach: The assumptions of this approach are:
a. The organization is composed of individuals who are divided into a variety of distinct sectional groups, each with its own interests, objectives and leadership.

b. The organization is in a permanent state of dynamic tension resulting from the inherent conflict of interests between the various sectional groups that requires to be managed through a variety of roles, institutions and processes.

The implications of this approach are:
i. Conflict is both rational and inevitable.
ii. The trade unions have positive role to ensure the wellbeing of the workers.

3. Marxist approach: Marxist approach concentrates on the nature of the society surrounding the organization. In the capitalist society there is always class conflict. This class conflict which arises within the society also affects industrial relations. The views of this approach are:

a. All conflicts stem principally from the division within the society between those who own or manage the means of production and those who have only their labour power sell. Thus conflict is continuous and unavoidable.

b. Trade unions not only enhance their collective industrial power by reducing competition among individual employees, but also provide a focus for the expression and protection of the interests of the working classes.

4. Social action approach: The pioneers of this approach are C.J. Margerison and Max Weber. This approach emphasizes upon understanding of interpersonal relationship in the work. Social action approach discusses the behavior of individual and group within the organization. The assumption of this approach are:
a. People are human being.
b. People are members of informal small groups.
c. People have own personality level, individual behavior, desire and social works are affected by some social and psychological factors such as expectation, goals, experience etc.

5. System approach: John T. Dunlop is the pioneer of this approach. System approach considers the industrial relations as a system that performs an institutional procedure to make rules to govern behavior of the people at work. Dunlop suggested that industrial relations system is a process created by four interrelated elements comprised of –
a. Certain actors.
b. Environmental contexts.
c. an ideology which binds the industrial relations system together and
d. a body of rules created to govern the actors at the work place.

6. HRD approach: The HRD approach recognizes employees as the greatest assets in an organization, believes that they can be developed to an unlimited extent with proper incentives, atmosphere and treatment.

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