Employment Relations: Discuss the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Unitarist, Pluralist and Radical Theoretical Perspectives to the Study of Employment Relations. Assess the View of the authors of the Textbook that the ‘Pluralist Neo-Institutionalist’ Perspective is the Best Perspective from which to Study Employment Relations

Employment Relations: Discuss the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Unitarist, Pluralist and Radical Theoretical Perspectives to the Study of Employment Relations. Assess the View of the authors of the Textbook that the ‘Pluralist Neo-Institutionalist’ Perspective is the Best Perspective from which to Study Employment Relations

Strengths of Pluralism

The first strength of pluralist form of employee relationship is that it diffuses of power among the bargaining parties in that no party has total control over the others (Bray, Waring, & Cooper, 2011). Pluralism employment relationship comprises of people with different aims, aspirations and interests, which distinguish them from each other. However, the groups involved have sameness of power and authority to an extent that no single party can dominate the others. As a result, this form of relationship exempted employees from suppression by their employers. Employers or the management, on the other hand, should not expect to suppress any employees’ opinions or ideas that might conflict with the organizational goal. This form of employment relationship primarily aims to merge conflicting opinions, ideas and goals; therefore, it keeps conflicts within considerable and acceptable bounds. In light of this, the conflicts cannot, in any case, destroy the enterprise or interfere with organizational goal achievement.

Another advantage of pluralism form of employee relationship is that it views unions as appropriate employee interest representatives (Rose, 2008). These unions have a right to challenge the employer or management. In addition, the unions also have the responsibility to seek negotiations (Lewis, Thornhill, & Saunders, 2003). This ensures that conflicts, which are inevitable in any organizational setting, are settled and the concerned parties are in good working relationship.

Weaknesses of Pluralism

            The first weakness of Pluralism employment relationship is that it might portray some power imbalance between the competing parties that have varying interest, aims and aspirations (Rose, 2008). Some scholars have even disagreed on the appropriate definitional characteristics of pluralism. These disagreements, especially by radicals, have echoed some power imbalance within the broader society and the organization. For instance, some research studies point out that power distribution is concentrated on the management or employer, but not uniformly distributed among the interested parties. According to radicals, the core characteristic of any employment relationship is the substantial power imbalance between labour and capital.

The second weakness of pluralism is that it emphasizes more on the support of efficient, rational and effective management of conflicts within the organization (Rose, 2008). According to some scholars, pluralism appears as complicated form managing conflicts since it aims at settling conflicts within supervisory framework. Despite the fact that pluralism concentrates on regulations, rules and processes to accommodate conflict, it appears sophisticated in that, at some point, unions need to be involved. Some researchers have claimed that the emphasis by pluralism is on social stability, negotiation and granting concessions. However, such emphasis has the potential to result in failure to understand properly outcomes and processes of a typical workplace (Rose, 2008).

The third disadvantage of pluralism is that it is indeterminate and open-minded (Bray, Waring, & Cooper, 2011). This creates a causal structural resentment that has the capability of resulting in more conflicts in both workplace and the labour market. The open-minded characteristic of pluralism results from the aspect of management and employees, who do not necessarily have total control over each other. However, this open-mindedness creates room for more conflicts since employees have the right to present diverse ideas that might not conform to organizational goal.

Strengths of Unitarist Employment Relationship

            This is an employment relationship in which each work organization is an incorporated entity with a common aim and a shared objective (Rose, 2008). The relationship largely depends on cooperation and harmony of interest between the management and employees. Additionally, there is no ultimate conflict between capital owners and employees. The first strength of unitarist employment relation is that it instills loyalty to the organization and management among employees. In unitarist, it is the role of employees to be loyal to the management and the organization as a whole in recognition of common goals. Unions in this form of employment seem to be competing for commitment and loyalty of employees. Another advantage of unitarist is that conflicts are not intrinsic within the organization and the workplace (Lewis, Thornhill, & Saunders, 2003). This is because conflicts seem to result from flawed communication, failure of employees to understand the harmony of organizational interest.

Weaknesses of Unitarist

            The first notable weakness of this form of employment relationship is that it takes a narrow perception of the nature of industrial conflict (Rose, 2008). Unitarist employment relationship tends to avoid vital questions including conflicts over employment security, status of labour as factor of production and power issues. An employment relationship needs to acknowledge the deepest structural causes of conflicts in a workplace. This renders unitarist as an unrealistic approach that does not recognize sources of conflict.

Strengths of Radical Employment Relationship

            The first strength of radicalism is that it allows unions to challenge the management or employer, just like in pluralism (Bray, Waring, & Cooper, 2011). Radicalism borrows much from pluralism since in both fundamental conflicts of interest between employees and employers are inherent. These conflicts arise from uneven distribution of wealth and income in capitalist society. The susceptibility of conflicts between employers and employees prompts workers to form unions, which have the right to challenge the organizational management body and distribution national product. The formed unions prevent the suppression of employees’ ideas and aspirations even if they differed with organizational goal. Another advantage of radicalism is that the state plays a significant role in the protection capital owners (Rose, 2008). The state and unions protect the interest of capital owners and workers respectively. In this case, the protection of interest of capital owners and workers ensures that each group achieves their objective.

Weakness of Radicalism

            Radicalism consists of non-uniform and frequently competing elements that disprove its colossal nature (Rose, 2008). For instance, a concession acquired from the state by one part of capital might create extra costs and burdens on other capital portions. A typical representation is the tariff protection by the state, which assists capital owners while simultaneously increases the inputs cost to other capital controllers.

Discuss the Role of the State in Employment Relations. What Role has the State Played in the Australian System of Employment Relations? What Role Should the State Play in the Australian System of Employment Relations?

The Role of the State in Employment Relationship

            The state and its various agencies participated in the law making and enforcement in different areas of employment relationship (Bray, Waring, & Cooper, 2011). Such areas included anti-discrimination and equal employment opportunities. In Australia, the state played a key a role in the larger framework of public policy that was also known as “domestic defense. It performed this role by regulating immigration and other forms of supply of labour and safeguarding of domestic industry. In general, the state in Australia actively participated in economy in society in general, and more particularly in employment relations. However, this role of the government has transformed in the 20th century, which witnessed in the compulsory arbitration and conciliation roles of the government.

What Role Should the State Play in the Australian System of Employment Relations?


            The state should serves as a legislator by developing a legal framework of individual and collective labour statutes (Lewis, Thornhill, & Saunders, 2003). The laws must distinguish employers, employees and trade unions, and rights of employment relationship. With respect to this, the state needs to have the potential to promote or discourage the spread of collective bargaining arrangements. On the contrary, offering legal conditions to collective bargaining and trade unions can be perceived as guaranteeing the legitimacy of capital system. The legalization of trade unions by the state will enable workers to express their claims and safeguards workers’ interest within the system. Legal trade unions will also create a sense of fairness regarding the system, which protects employees from challenging it in the most fundamental manner. Government laws regarding employment relationship also contain employee demands within considerable doubts; hence ensuring long-term economic and societal stability.

The state provides public or collective goods such as vocational training and health care (Rose, 2008). The provision of these goods is extremely expensive for employees to meet the costs. These public goods or services makes sure that the entire country’s workforce is cared for sufficiently to facilitate their participation in employment.

The state is also a labour market controller since it lays down standards relating to employee working hours, health and safety and wages. These standards regulate competition over the employment condition and payment of employees. Without these minimum requirements, the society and employers might exploit workers and potentially become unfair. As a result, workers might be prompted to challenge the government justice.

The state needs to acts as a conciliator, mediator and arbitrator between employees and employers (Rose, 2008). The state should often offer services that facilitate conflict resolution in a typical workplace. Unresolved disputes can substantially destabilize the rightfulness of a capitalist system and its capability to facilitate accumulation. It is, therefore, the state’s role to establish methods such as arbitration and conciliation to guarantee the resolution of conflicts in a peaceful manner.

The state should acts as a labour employer. In many developed nations, the public is the largest labour employer (Lewis, Thornhill, & Saunders, 2003). The government uses this role to control employment and incomes within its economy and influence private labour employers. States that control this role are capable of controlling wages in a way that provides legitimacy of the system and accumulates profits.

Discuss the Role of Unions in Employment Relations. Assess the Future of Unions in the Australian System of Employment Relations.

            Trade unions have a role in uniting member employees into group, whose main objective is to raise wages above expected rates under pure market forces and improve working conditions (Rose, 2008). Previous studies point out that the concept of trade unions originates from the asymmetric market power of employees and employees has a long legacy. Some studies have also stated that the individual workers have a weaker bargaining power in the “haggling” of labour market than trade unions. In order to increase the bargaining power, workers unite themselves into trade unions.

The second role of trade unions is the collective voice or institutional response (Lewis, Thornhill, & Saunders, 2003). This characteristic of trade unions relates to the concept that all societies have two ways, which are “exit” or “voice” of dealing with economic or social problems. The “exit” mechanism implies that individuals opposed the situation they dislike. For instance, dissatisfied consumers change switch to new alternatives and unhappy couples can freely divorce. Similarly, employees who are dissatisfied with their current job provisions can seek employment elsewhere. On the other hand, the “voice mechanism” implies that instead of opposing and evading the situation, individuals can express their concerns to change the situation. For instance, dissatisfied customers have a right to communicate complaints. With regard to this, trade unions can help in conveying employees concerns to the management or employer.

The third role of unions is the involvement in political activities (Rose, 2008). Many union leaders and members frequently pursue political objectives that tend to express the interest employees, unions and the working class. Some scholars have referred to trade unions as political movements by nature. Despite the view that collective bargaining is a pivotal role of unions, the government’s authority to arbitrate in society fetches the realism of trade unions in the political realm. In many countries, the expression of political objectives by unions can be viewed in the affiliations, which develop between political parties and unions. Unions also engage in politics by supporting political parties that promise to apply union policy objectives. In addition, union’s support of political parties having the same political thoughts as them also reveals their role in politics.

The future of Unions in Australia

            As much as there have been a few research on organizing transformation in trade unions, there is a limited amount of studies into the degree of the union organizers’ role (Rose, 2008). It is most likely that there will be limited resources channeled to membership growth in non-union sectors. Union organizers are also likely to spend much of their time on conflict resolution instead of performing their organizing duty. This might be due to the increased adoption of pluralism and radicalism employment relations by many employers. Some scholars have also argued that some sectors might experience a change in the role of union delegate. According to the analysis of Australian unions, the role of union delegates is transforming in various sectors in various sectors to a workplace activism.

Assess the Impact of ‘Non-Union Representation’ in Australian Workplaces. Are Unions and Unionised Bargaining the Best Means by Which Employees Can Have a ‘Voice’ in the Decision-Making Process within Organisations?

Non-union employee representation resulted in the lack of acknowledgement of trade unions by some employers (Lewis, Thornhill, & Saunders, 2003). There is massive international evidence that supports this claim in Australia. In four case studies conducted by scholars on employment relations, the management derecognized trade unions and opted to encourage their own employee involvement. In other two similar studies, employee participation schemes were used to stand against claims for trade union representative. The employer resistance to trade union organizations was evidenced by a recurrent trend that formalized and institutionalized non-unionism. In this non-unionism organizations, representative and consultative forums provide an avenue for discussing complaints and staff issues.

Non-unionism transformed the contracting stream. The amendments of work choices in 2005 significantly promoted non-unionism (Rose, 2008). As a result, the amendments transformed the working contracts between the employer and employee. According to the Australian, the amendments granted both employees and employers immense freedom to discuss employment terms and conditions. Under non-unionism employee representation, employers had the capability to request new employers to sign the Australian Workers Agreement.

Non-unionism has also resulted in difficulties in determining the contents of employment contract by employees (Rose, 2008). According to some researchers examining the processes and outcomes of a workplace, non-unionism after 2005 made the evaluation of employment contacts extremely difficult. The effect is even worse in employees such as low skilled workers, workers in dangerous employment and women who are vulnerable to labour market positions. The AWAs act as a tool for denting employee representation.

Discuss the Role of Bargaining in the Australian System of Employment Relations. What Role Should Bargaining Play in the Australian System of Employment Relations?

            Bargaining refers to the institutionalized arrangements through which employees and employers define the terms and conditions of employment relationship (Rose, 2008). Bargaining frameworks are popularly used in relative studies that differ from national bargaining structure in various nations. Bargaining has also shown some significance in the historical studies of transforming national bargaining arrangements and many micro studies of industries or regions.

Bargaining has five dimensions that assist in the determination of terms and conditions of the employment relationship (Rose, 2008). The dimensions include level of bargaining, agent, scope, status or conditions and coverage. Under the level of bargaining employers are distinguished as multi or single employer. Apparently, multi-employer bargaining offers centralized bargaining levels, whereas single-player provides a decentralized bargaining. Multi-employer bargaining takes place at national single industry, regional multi-industry, and national multi-industry or regional single-industry. On the other hand, single-employer bargaining takes place in a single firm. Bargaining agent, second dimension, is an individual or organization that represents employees or employers during the bargaining process. The scope of bargaining refers to the bargained issues such as wages and working environment, and subjects addressed in agreement. Bargaining status mostly involves the legal requirements of the bargaining outcomes and procedures. Australian government and courts are responsible in the determination of the legal framework with which bargaining takes place. Bargaining coverage refers to the country’s proportion of the workforce, industry or enterprise whose terms and conditions are to be defined.

What is Industrial Conflict? What are the Causes of Industrial Conflict? Analyse these Causes with a View to Determine the Most Significant Cause of Industrial Conflict in Workplaces.

Industrial conflicts refer to disputes among employers, between employers and employees or among employers (Rose, 2008). These disputes have an association with employment, non-employment, and terms of employment or condition of labour. The classification of contributing factors to industrial conflicts include economic and non-economic. Economic causative factors include issues relating bonus, wages, allowances, leave and working hours among others. The non-economic contributors to industrial conflicts include ill treatment of an employee by staff, political factors, indiscipline and sympathetic strikes among others.

Wages and allowances are economic causative factors of industrial disputes in Australia (Rose, 2008). With increasing cost of living, workers are not only likely to bargain for salaries to cater for the rising cost of living, but also to improve their living standards.  According some research done in 2002, approximately 21 per cent of industrial disputed resulted from demand for higher compensation as wages and allowances. The percentage declined in 2003 to approximately 20% and rose to 26 per cent in 2004. In 2005, the demand for allowances and wages was responsible for approximately 21 per cent of the disputes in Australia.

The second cause of industrial conflict is indiscipline or violence. The trend for violence and indiscipline at work place has been rising (Rose, 2008). For example, in 2002 approximately 29 per cent of conflicts resulted from indiscipline among employers and employees. The percentage rose to 36.9 per cent in 2003 and in 40.4 per cent in in 2004. In 2005, disputes resulting from indiscipline indicated a rise by hitting 41.6 per cent. The trend indicates that disciplinary measures need to be implemented at Australian workplaces. According to radicalism perspective of employment relationship, failing to resolve these disputes might result in losses to the organization. Employees or employers in a conflict cannot perform effectively to ensure maximum production at workplace.

Another cause for industrial conflict in Australia is personnel and retrenchment (Lewis, Thornhill, & Saunders, 2003). Trade unions and organizations might rapidly prompt a conflict with the management upon hearing of an impending layoff in in the labour industry. Such conflicts arise when trade unions protest against claims by management that they need to retrench employees in order cut the budget. The union and management differ in ideas. In 2002, disputes arising from personnel accounted for approximately 14.1 per cent, whereas those arising from retrenchment and layoffs accounted for 2.2% and 0.4% respectively. A similar trend was also visible in 2003, wherein personnel caused 11.2 per cent, whereas retrenchment and layoffs caused 2.4% and 0.6% respectively. In 2005, personnel caused approximately 10 per cent of the conflicts while retrenchment caused 0.4 per cent of the total conflicts (Lewis, Thornhill, & Saunders, 2003).

Some employment policies are a source of conflicts in a typical workplace. Personal or sick day’s policy is notable examples that might lead industrial disputes. The management or the employer and employee frequently differ over vacation and sick day policies. As a result, employees might protest the lack of paid vacation and sick days. This is the most popular policy that results in industrial disputes. In addition, workers might believe that a requirement within the policies of the company is immoral, unfair or illegal. The employees, in turn, might attempt to protest against such requirement.

The most significant cause of industrial conflict is violence and indiscipline among employees and employers. This is because it accounts for the largest portion of conflicts at a workplace. Moreover, violence and indiscipline has shown a rising trend from 2002.























Bray, M., Waring, P., & Cooper, R. ( 2011). Employment Relations. New York: McGraw-Hill Australia.

Lewis, P., Thornhill, A., & Saunders, M. (2003). Employee Relations: Understanding The Employment Relationship. New York: Financial Times Prentice Hall.

Rose, E. (2008). Employment Relations. New York: Financial Times Prentice Hall.

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