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(Assignment 4) A description of North America and its IR systems. Focus on the factors influencing the different systems of IR and their impact on the employer-employee relationship. Besides this aspect, a focus on the impact of environmental and contextual factors as well as on the role of national culture and institutions in the evolution and nature of IR could also be interesting.Each team will have to present during the fist session its reflection. You should NOT USE more than 2 SLIDES and the presentation MUST NOT exceed 8 min. We live in an interactive society which is highly complex and dynamic. It is composed by differentiated groups, activities and institutional relations (Salomon).
We as individuals, whether as managers, trade unionists or part of the general public, have only a partial direct experience of the full range of activities present in a society (Salomon). To be able to describe the United States industrial relations we have to say that it is based on a Marxist perspective. A Marxist perspective assumes and emphasises, that the environment of the organization is a capitalist society (Salomon). In this type of society the system is privately owned, profit is the key influence on company policy and the control over production is enforced downwards by the owners' managerial agents (Salomon). The Marxists theory of society says that:
Class conflict is a source of society change. Class conflict arises primarily from the disparity in the distribution of, and access to, economic power within society. The nature of the society's social and political institutions is derived from this economic disparity and reinforces the position of the dominant establishment group. Social and political conflict in whatever form is merely an expression of the underlying economic conflict within society. The industrial conflict faced by the inherent nature of the capitalist economy and society stem principally from the division within society between those who own or manage the means of production and those who have only their labour (Salomon).
A response to this capitalism is the creation of trade unions. These trade unions not only enhance their collective industrial power by reducing competition between individual employees but also provide a focus for the expression and protection of the interests of the working class (Wheeler & McClendon). The unions and industrial relations are seen as a political activities associated with the development of the working class (Wheeler). However, they are just part of the overall political process for achieving fundamental changes in the nature of the economic and social systems (Wheeler & McClendon). Trade unions do not restore the balance but merely mitigate the imbalance (Wheeler & McClendon).
In the case of the United States, which is the first and biggest capitalist country in the world, we can observe a clear Marxist perspective. Factors that affect the industrial relations and its interaction with the employee, the world trade and the increase of trade within the whole world affects the response of the firms to increase and undertake new work systems in order to increase productivity, reduce costs and improve quality (Wheeler & McClendon). A large number of these redesigned systems involve changes in the nature of work and include various types of employee involvement programs and workplace innovations (Wheeler & McClendon). All these changes are occurring in a moment when other type of changes are taking place in work design like; part-time and casual workers, this affects the real wages for a big amount of workers, and also downsizing concerns job security (Wheeler & McClendon). Historically and prior to industrialization we have seen that the Unites States had unions. They started in the 1790s with crafts-workers till nowadays with factory workers, and they had a very important and strong position within the economic and social aspects of the country (Wheeler & McClendon).
Although they are still strong and are very important in the recent years they have lost influence within the firms. Their bargaining power has been reduced greatly (Wheeler & McClendon). From the beginning trade unions affected industrial relations. They started to have influence from the first trade unions that existed. Organising large numbers of workers. Trade unions asked for higher wages and better working conditions (Wheeler & McClendon). Along the years they started to get stronger and stronger and there influence in the system was bigger proportionally (Wheeler & McClendon). Unions also started to organised government employees (the first ones were the teachers) (Wheeler & McClendon).
In the United States an extremely important effect that industrial relations have had are the Legislative initiatives by trade unions in areas such as minimum wages, termination of employment, race and sex discrimination in employment, pensions, health and safety, plant closing, drug testing, discrimination against disabled workers (Wheeler & McClendon). The most recent ones are the ones related with the racial and gender discrimination (Wheeler & McClendon). The industrial relations affect the employees in the United States in a positive way. Nowadays the trend of globalised economies and trade agreements has led to a major expansion of international trade. This increased importance of international trade has, created pressures to control labour costs (Wheeler & McClendon).
In this legal contractual relationship in the United Sates the relation between employee and employer is protected (Salomon). We also observe that industrial relations challenge the U.S.A. with the notions of equality and freedom (Salomon). Within the United States the influence of industrial relations is evident, a new phase of IR is the trainee and develop of the employee. We can see already that many organisations are fully involved with language training as well in cross-cultural training and development (Holliagshead & Leat).
The United States consists in 2 distinct sectors: non-union sector and union sector (Wheeler & McClendon). . Non-union sector: broad management discretion and control over the terms and conditions of employment (Wheeler & McClendon). This is limited by the labour markets constraints, protective labour legislation, and the desire of managers to avoid unionisation. (Wheeler & McClendon). .
Unionised sector: adversarial relations between labour and management. For most American unions and management are viewed as serving rather discrete and fundamentally opposed interests (Wheeler & McClendon). The economic situation of the United States had an affect on the industrial relations through the last years and as a consequence affected the interrelation between employee and employer and its working environment. Competition for high quality and low price are the characteristics in the United States economy in the past years (Wheeler & McClendon). This had created difficulties when people had been substitute by machines (Wheeler & McClendon).
The type of labour demanded had changed by new technology and from manufacturing to services (Wheeler & McClendon). The workforce is extremely diverse in terms of gender, race and national origin (Wheeler & McClendon). The workplace had changed increasingly by the competitive market environment and emphasis on cost reduction (Wheeler & McClendon). The cost pressures, greater international and domestic competition, the rapid change in technology and the decline in the traditional dominance of the largest firms, had weakened the bargaining power of the unions in the United States (Wheeler & McClendon). In the United States this relationship between employer and employee had been affected by the political environment as well, with its representative democratic institutions, had provided a structure for the development of both free trade unions and free management (Wheeler & McClendon).
In the United States, all of the participants in the employment relations system have a significant role. It is the employers that have generally been most powerful (Wheeler & McClendon). During the last years and as a consequence of the advances of the IR and its relationship with the employee the workplace is experimenting transformation, this is done mainly because of the adoption of new human resources techniques (Wheeler & McClendon). Many firms in an effort to remain competitive are changing the very nature of work (Wheeler & McClendon). Here we observe a change in work process design; employee ownership through employee stock ownership plans, cost-reduction efforts through downsizing, out-sourcing and contingent employment (Wheeler & McClendon).
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