Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Employment relations

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It is inevitable that conflict will occur in an employment relationship. The term conflict refers to differences in opinion, resulting in some form of hostility and resistance. In an organization, the employment relationship is the relations between employers and employees, although this may seem simplistic, there are many properties to look deep into to understand the conflicts that may occur in a business.

There are three dimensions that directly relate to employment relationship; economic, legal and social dimensions. Once these three dimensions are established, problems will without doubt rise in an organization. The roles of trade unions are to improve economic and working conditions for employees, provide security for employees, provide services to members, affiliations and political aims. If conflict is to become out of hand or becomes critical for the economy, the state will help solve the conflict in the best possible way.

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Conflict is a very serious aspect to be concerned with in an industry, it is essential that whoever is to handle or resolve the conflict knows whether they will be helping the correct party in the dispute. Each organization has their way of authority, whenever another source of authority joins the organization the risk of conflict will rise (Edwards 186, p.). When conflict rises in a working community both employers and employees will undoubtedly be affected, this maybe due to differences in opinion, whether this difference be true or not is not relevant, due to the fact that as long as people believe there is a difference then there is a conflict (Robbins, Bergman & Stagg 17, p.66). Over time, different views of conflict in an organization have developed. Firstly, the traditional view is that conflict is bad and must be prevented. Secondly, the human relation view is that conflict is inevitable, and may have the ability to enhance and organizations productivity and performances. Lastly, the interactionist view of conflict stresses that not only is conflict inevitable in an organization, but it is necessary to have some conflict in order for an organization to perform productivity (Robbins et al. 17, p.66-67) (Refer Appendix II).


There are three dimensions of problems that can take place within an organization � economic, legal and social. The economic, legal and social features of the employment relationship are complicated to divide, because all three are closely interrelated (Dufty & Fells 18, p.) (Refer Appendix I). It is necessary that the employer and employee relationship be stable and content in the beginning, otherwise in the future the workplace will be inefficient and unproductive.

It is known that the employer requires employees to work for them, to produce products and increase capital and profit for them. The employee is working for a wage that the employer provides in exchange for the employees time and services (Gardner & Palmer 17, p.1). These are known as the economic dimensions of the employment relationship. Over time employees have developed characteristics and desire to want more i.e. a certain wage for their qualification, holiday/sick leave and job security. However this will definitely lead to conflict within an employment relationship, because whilst the employer is trying to maximise labour productivity, the employees may intend to obtain higher wages or a promotion (Dufty & Fells 18, p.4).

The legal dimension is in some ways, a means of controlling the employment relationship, so that employees and employers cannot take advantage of each other’s powers. Courts are fair but time consuming, therefore not very beneficial for either the employer or employee. On the other hand, if it is required to go to court it is absolutely necessary, because it is based on the rights of an individual.

Looking at the social dimension, it shows that there can be both a positive side and a negative side to it. Entering a workplace people often start as an individual, with their own opinions and characteristics. In the latter stage of employment individuals will tend to group and have group opinions (Dufty & Fells 18, p.1). As a positive view, a group of employees can support each other to work more productively and efficiently. Nevertheless, groups may band together and lead to overt conflict eg strikes, sabotage and working without enthusiasm (Stephenson & Brotherton 17, p.145).


The primary role of the trade union is to aid fellow members in their organization and to improve working conditions in their environment. The power of an employer in a business is far more greater then an employee, this is why workers acting collectively will enhance their power in bargaining. Once this has been established, employees in an organization will feel more secure and less vulnerable to employers’ powers and possible discrimination (Deery & Plowman 11, p.61). Conversely, for the trade union to assist an employee the employee must first become a member of the trade union, if they are not a member then there will be a difference in wages and leave (Refer Appendix III). Trade unions not only act on behalf of its members but also provide services for member i.e. credit unions, education assistance and recreational clubs (Deery & Plowman 11, p.6). There are several aims and objectives that trade unions strive to achieve, all correlating to protect and help the interest of members.

The improved economic conditions of members, relates to the increase in wages and salaries, this can also be achieved by shorter working hours (Alexander & Lewer 18, p.77).

Improved working conditions are associated with the environment the workers are subject to. The working environment should be safe for employees and proper amenities should be provided. When work breaks are to be taken and how long they should be taken for are also part of the healthy working conditions the trade unions attempt to improve.

Arbitrary and discriminatory discharge is a major problem in the industry, and the trade union is there to protect members and insure their security in an organization. Technological development in a company may bring about redundancies and transfers in an organization, this is where the trade union will act on behalf of the member to solve this conflict (Deery 11; Alexander 18).

Conflict rises from all these points, because the employer will have their own view of the situation and what the employee requires and how much they are meant to earn. And on the other hand the members/employees will also have their own personal view of what they deserve and how much they deserve.


The state is referred to in some ways as the authority; government, police, courts and armed forces. The state is a traditional and powerful force, which will help either party, whether they are employees or employers. The main focus of the state is to control and maintain economic growth and stability in the whole of society (Petzall, Timo & Abbott 000, p.8). The state from some people’s perspective is there to, decrease unemployment, reduce inflation, protecting consumers and so on so forth. The state is generally separated into three categories the government and cabinet, the department of labour and treasury, and officials from various state agencies including courts (Brosnan, Smith & Walsh 10, p.16). The state judges and analyses conflict issues within industries through discussions of state theories and political views. Conflicts in employment relations will definitely result in economical problems as well as the malfunction of the organization (Petzall et al. 000, p.8). This is why the state will step in and analyse the conflict and exercise philosophy and political theory to solve the problem and help satisfy either party.


In conclusion, it is clear that “conflict is inevitable in employment relations.” Whether the conflict in an organization be healthy or not will not be determined until the conflict has risen. If the conflict is to be beneficial, it will help the organization as well as the economy by increasing productivity and efficiency. However, if the conflict is not handled appropriately, this may lead to a disaster for the organization and affect an economies prospect for overseas investments. The three dimensions related to conflict would disrupt employees and employers perspective and cause changes in working situations and how work is to be handled and by whom. Once the employees join the trade union and become a member of it, their bargaining and influencing power is astronomical. But, members of trade unions will not mean difficulty for an employer just because they are collective bargaining and work as a group, they may also improve productivity as a group and group motivation will be noticed. Trade unions are there to assist their members to improve conditions that may not be satisfactory for them, not to allow them to have the right to be entitled perfect conditions and high salaries. Finally, the state will provide support and backup if situations become out of hand and cause large amount of problems not only to people in the organization but also to the people who are not involved.

So, although conflict is inevitable in industrial relations it is not all negative, but also contain many positive outcomes that are beneficial to employees, employers, the organization and the economy itself.


The employment relationship


Conflict and organization productivity

Situation Level of Conflict Type of conflict Organization’s internal characteristics Level of organizational productivity

A Low or non Dysfunctional Apathetic, Stagnant, Unresponsive to change, Lack of new ideas Low

B Optimal Functional Viable, Self-critical, Innovative High

C High Dysfunctional Disruptive, Chaotic, Uncooperative Low


A comparison between union and non-union employment terms and benefits

Terms & Benefits Union members Non-unionists

Wages Males $641 per week $58 per week

Females $47 per week $70 per week

Superannuation Males Have 6% Have 84%

Females Have 5% Have 80%

Annual leave loading Males 0% 71%

Females 85% 60%

Sick leave Males 0% 71%

Females 85% 60%

Long service leave Males 87% 5%

Females 81% 50%

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