Labor Relations: Duties of Labor Relation Officers, Challenges and Impact

Over the years, the global economic environment has assumed a volatile feature owing to a multiplicity of factors pushing for advancement to new heights of operations. For instance, globalization of market, changing consumer preferences, era of informed clientele, and unforgiving market competition forms part of the set of factors shaping the business economic environment. On that note, an organization competing favorably in the corporate arena characterized by the above factors develops an effective and innovative human resource foundation to enhance survival opportunities and optimize organizational outcomes (Jiang, Leepak, Hu, & Baer, 2013). In practice, an organization’s success majorly depends on the capabilities of its resources including technology, capital and workforce. Given the demands of the current environment, organizations have committed resources in generating capital resources and the incorporation of technology to propel it against the present and emerging dynamism. Nevertheless, the success of the organization despite its commitment to the acquisition of technology and capital resources ties to how appropriately and prepared is its labor force capabilities. Organization high performance depends on the labor relations strategy mediating between critical organizational variables and respective performance in solving inevitable conflicts between the owners and employees.

As previously documented in organizational research reports, internalization of labor relations development enables the accomplishment of desired capabilities of the firm and flexibility in employment. However, accomplishing such goals in the labor relations office has never been simple in practice as it seems in theory. Labor relations involve adopting high – involvement strategies to achieve competitive advantage through people while complying with the legal provision for the wholesome benefit of all parties and high organizational performance(Rose & Kumar, 2006).On that reference, duties of the labor relations office revolve around utilizing the best from existing human resources through internal alignments that establish and sustain positive relationships from within the organization and externally to the labor unions and the government authority.

Duties of a Labor Relation Officer

The sustenance of good labor relations within the organization derives a fair share of the fruits of progression both to the employer and employee. For instance, an organization environment emphasizing good relations directly linking the workforce and the management generates job satisfaction better than high pay in employment. However, in the modern economy organization seeking to use resources both efficiently and effectively faces inevitable tension on how best to manage such resources to benefit both ownership and employees (Holley, Jennings, & Wolters, 2011).

Firstly, the labor relations manager serves conduit duties between the organizational management and the workforce for the contentment of both groups. This involves guiding and identifying applicable labor relation policies which might lead to improved performance for the firm. This duty stretches to include paying attention to the current development in the labor union movement to avoid instances where formulated policies generate conflict with the unions’ provision. Here, the labor relation officer serves under the unitarist perspective that conflict is disruptive and works against the common gain for all which arises due to communication breakdown and should be avoided at all costs.

Secondly, the labor relation officer assumes the duty of interpreting policy changes both to the senior management and employees. This duty imposes the call to provide an explanation for the technical language and material subtexts in employment contracts to avoid forceful segregation of parties in material contracts which directly or indirectly affect their services in the organization. The extra obligation owing to formulated labor policies involves submitting written explanation to the principal registrar of companies of the intended policy before its full implementation. The interpretation role will entail conducting a walk-through on the documented labor policy highlighting the reason for that policy and impact to the overall organizational performance and affected parties in the current workforce.

As earlier demonstrated in the text, organizational performance is closely linked to the internal capabilities of the labor force present. This requires the acquisition and maintenance of performing human resources to foster chances of the organization to develop and nurture internally acquired comparative advantage over its market rivals. Under the approach outlined in the labor theory of generating value, the relations manager relates labor costs to derive usefulness calling for retention of high performers in the labor force while firing the underperformers. Here, the relations manager authorizes internal investigations of employees reported of misconduct and professional negligence. Nevertheless, the organization through the labor relations department must liaise with the union on the plight of victims in such policies. This confers added commitment to the labor relations officer by making continuous representation to the employees union during the preliminary implementation of changes in labor policies. This designates the role of communicating the management decision affecting members of its workforce to the union representatives.

Every organization management is fully aware of the impact of conflicts in the organizational performance annexed to the damaged reputation. With such occurrence leading to extra costs and burden for the organization to bear, the labor relations manager is fully accustomed with authority to solve emerging contentious issues before they are full-blown. In reference to the McGregor management theory, human resources are a piece with the organizational performance and therefore, conflicts are inevitable in any organization. Here, a two-tier approach allows the organization to protect the industrial systems from the negative impact of workplace conflicts. For instance, where the labor relations office detects indicators of rumors of a planned strike, the labor relations managers must swiftly intercede to identify the root cause of the situation and mediate for the benefit of the parties involved. Solving conflicts by conducting mediation and negotiation ensures continuity, efficiency and reduced costs for the organization’s operations by preventing work disruptions and expensive litigations in potential lawsuits. Under this approach, the manager commits the organization in labor contracts of different wage structures that does not comprise the shareholders objective of wealth maximization.

Additionally, the labor officer assumes the responsibility of leading and overseeing collective bargaining procedures during exercise of industrial democracy in solving unavoidable disputes. Here, the labor relations manager is the management representative to ensure that parties affected appreciate the differences between their respective standpoints and settle such on a foundation of facts and viable realities of the matter in question. This demands that parties in dispute realize the pluralism perspective demonstrating that organizations are comprised of divergent groups demanding the manager to ensure persuasion during collective bargaining. For instance, the relations manager is required to adequately represent the organization position and argue out what the organization is capable of meeting during dialogues with the labor union. This involves providing detailed representation of the impact of changes in organization approach in its operations such as effect of application of technology to the employees’ duties.

Lastly, the labor relation officer is required to represent the entire organization both employees and employers in the industrial tribunal on inter-industrial matters such as enterprise bargaining and labor policy administration. This pegs the role of studying and subsequently interpreting relevant industrial legislation formulated by the national or the county assembly to control industrial practices in workplaces. In this regard, the labor relations manager ensures compliance with the stipulated provisions and advising various parties within the organization on the appropriate procedures for carrying out special negotiations for the benefit of all parties.

Challenges of the Union/ Nonunion Environment

Labor unions provide employees with a common and loud voice to air their challenges for better negotiation compared to the divide-conquer mentality in non-unionized workplaces. In view of that position, it is a critical requirement for the labor relations department and the labor unions to work in collaboration by addressing labor-management differences to ensure continuity in organizational performance and positive workplace environment. However, the labor relations office must face-off with several challenges arising in both unionized and non-union environments.

Firstly, handling employee grievances involves the burden of multiplicity of similar cases which could be handled harmoniously. For instance, an employee in a non-union environment has the right to question, object to disciplinary actions or request for job transfer even in situations of a shorter career stay. On the other hand, handling employee grievances in unionized imposes enormous pressure owing to the collective bargaining agreements outlining the process of handling employee complaints. Secondly, unions will simultaneously erect challenges for the management through their attempts in organizing workers against the push for upholding union-free workplaces. In particular, the apex unions are always persuading the employees through awareness campaigns meant to orient them into collective action. Such raises contentious arena especially where the labor unions impose stiff penalties to companies threatening employees for involvement in collective activities affiliated with labor unions.

In addition, the labor relations office has an obligation to represent the organization when entering into contract negotiations and agreements seeking to solve disputes arising in the labor-management relationship. Habitually, the union will insert clauses in such contracts requiring the human resource department to deduct and remit union dues to the labor union promptly. In the era of technology, it seems easy responsibilities contrary to the level of accountability and accuracy required of the organizing officer in deducting the appropriate amounts. Moreover, the relations department must abide and comply with the provisions of the labor legislation. This presents added costs of operations since the organization must engage the services of an in-house relation specialist charged with investigation of workplace complaints and administering opinion surveys to the workforce members. Lastly, the labor relations office is presented with a complex challenge to solve when dealing with collective bargained agreements with the labor unions to adequately prepare for acceptable contracts. This involves services of a compensation specialist to brief and draft various contingent rates before the expiration of the contract.

Impact of the Union to the Labor Environment

Unions play a pivotal role in forcing the organization through their representative into favorable negotiations for employment contracts on behalf of their members. The benefits associated within unionized environments have spread the union movement from the old economy to other sectors such as utility and service industries. Nonetheless, industrial deregulation and reforms permitting labor mobility are spreading prospective membership making collective bargaining a complex issue to handle. Simultaneously, the contemporary advancements across the industry forms part of evolutions in the workplace where the traditional role-difference between the manager and the employee is blurring in the era of technology. In practice, unions heavily influence the workplace environments first by campaigning to increase of the wage-floors. This has seen the escalation of labor costs for the organization demanding low-skilled workforce, but then again subsequently bridging the wage-rate differentials between the high-skilled and the lowly skilled employees.

Additionally, the unions’ defy traditional notions that they must be act as adversaries with the management through the lobby-support for stricter import policies to increase domestic production, and thus, domestic labor. Furthermore, the union support for stricter immigration policies to limit the number of low-skilled labor in its effect increasing the minimum wages and so does the demand for high-skilled workers. Besides, the role played by the unions leaves a visible mark in the labor sector by shaping organizations conduct and political legislations on industrial matters. This has seen the emergence of a labor relation trend where employee disputes are preferably solved through mediation, saving the organization from the costly court battles.

Likewise, the role assumed by most labor unions resembles that of labor cartels seeking to attain the better share of the fruit for its constituent members. This presents a vicious cycle in the economy arising where the unions succeed in obtaining higher wage rates for their members. This raises the operations costs associated with the labor, and thus reduce recorded net profits which scare away potential investors from making further investments haunting the population from increased rates of unemployment.

Conclusion

The roles of the labor relations officer revolve around the organizational pluralism comprising of divergent groups; management and employees. This confers the obligation of serving the conduit role as a management representative during collective bargaining with labor unions. However, the role of the relations officer represents a form of realization that human resources are a piece with the organization and subsequently influence its performance. Organization high performance depends on the labor relations strategy mediating between critical organizational variables and respective performance. This sets the duties of the labor relations manager as a critical requirement to ensure the organization and the labor unions work in collaboration rather than as adversaries by addressing labor-management differences to ensure continuity in organizational performance and positive workplace gain for employees. Subsequently, the vicious cycle evident in the unionized environment will blur, benefitting the existence of investment growth and high employment rates in the economy.

References

  • Holley, W. H., Jennings, K. M., & Wolters, R. S. (2011). The Labor Relations Process (10 ed.). Mason: Cengage Learning.
  • Jiang, K., Leepak, D. P., Hu, J., & Baer, J. C. (2013). How Does Human Resource Management Influence Organizational Outcomes? A Meta-analytic Investigation of Mediating Mechanisms. Journal of Management.
  • Rose, R. C., & Kumar, N. (2006). The Influence of of Organizational and Human Resource Management Strategies on Performance. Performance Improvement, 45(4), 18-24.
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