The Evolution Of Labor Relations

The term labor relations, also known as industrial relations, refers to the mechanism in which employers, employees and their members, and, directly or indirectly, the state, collaborate to lay down the fundamental rules for the governance of labor relations. It also defines an area of research devoted to the analysis of certain relationships. The area is the outgrowth of the industrial revolution, the excesses of which contributed to the rise of labour unions serving workers and the establishment of collective labor relations. The structure of labor or industrial relations represents the relationship between the major players in it: the administration, the employer (or the employer or the employers’ association), labour unions and workers (who may or may not engage in labor unions and other employers’ representation bodies).

The terms “labor relations” and “industrial relations” are also used in conjunction with various types of worker participation; they can also cover individual working relations between the employer and the worker under a written or informal employment contract. While these are generally referred to as  “job relations”. There is some variance in the usage of the terms, partially illustrating the shifting nature of the field over time and place. There is general consensus, however, that collective bargaining, different types of staff involvement (such as work councils and joint health and safety committees) and processes are part of the sector. For the arbitration of mutual and human conflicts the wide range of structures of labor relations in the world has ensured that comparative analyses and description of styles are followed by caveats regarding the limitations of over-generalization and misleading analogies.

Human resource management has been described as “science and practice dealing with the nature of the employment relationship and all decisions, actions and issues related to that relationship” (Ferris, Rosen and Barnum 1995). It is the concept most widely used to describe the employer’s approach to personnel administration, which stresses employee participation, usually but not always in a union-free environment, with the intention of empowering employees to improve their productivity. Today, job organisation strategies, recruiting and evaluation, performance evaluation, preparation, skills growth and career advancement are illustrated, along with direct employee engagement and contact. Human resource management has been put forward as an alternative to “Fordism”, the conventional assembly-line model of production in which the mechanics are responsible for the organisation of work and the duties delegated to the workers are separated and strictly circumscribed.

 A further aspect of human resource management can be the correlation between compensation, individually or jointly, and results. It should be remembered that one of the three goals of occupational health has been defined by the Joint ILO/WHO Committee on Occupational Health as ‘the improvement of work organisations and working environments in a direction that encourages and promotes health and safety at work. This is regarded as the development of a “safety culture”.