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Describe the Advanced Studies in Industrial Relations for NSW Train Workers.

Major parties involved in the dispute

The train workers planned a 24-hour strike on January. The government reacted by pronouncing the strike as unlawful. This was following a number of processes, which were followed to conclude. The strike was following the allegations that the train workers were much being underpaid and they deserved an increased pay rate. The union claimed that the train workers had not been paid after a long period. Consequently, they could not afford to sustain the an ever increasing hard life. The union therefore wanted that the government of the new south wales to consider increasing the wages for the train workers so that they could afford good life.

According to Train Workers Union in the country, Australian employees, and not just train workers were being underpaid and that the employers in the country were considering their own affairs and ignoring the side of the employees. The strike issue brought together the government of the New South Wales, train, tram and buses Union of Australia, and the Fair Work Commission of Australia. The act of deeming the strike unlawful, however caused a great dispute as some of the parties considered it right as the others considered it a violation of the rights of workers, who are also citizens of the country. It is important to note that this decision and the aftermath dispute have a lot to do with industrial relations of the country.

This paper describes the main reasons that were evident to have been the cause of the disagreements between various bodies that were concerned in this dispute. The paper will also locate the positions each of the parties involved in the conflict in accordance to the theories of industrial relations. In addition, the paper will provide recommended adjustments that each of the parties would have made to avoid such conflicts. Here, the paper will help in providing solution to such issues in case they arise in future.

Attention of various parties in Australia was drawn by this strike plan. First, the Train, Tram and Buses union was the first to come into play. They first developed the idea of forming employees union. The other party that was involved in this dispute was the Fair Work Commission of Australia. Their involvement was following the line of duty because it is the body that ensures that workers in the country are not underpaid as well as not exposed to any kind of violation by their employers. Additionally, the serve the role of ensuring the Fair Work Act 2009 is implemented and workers’ rights are all maintained. Another party that was involved in this dispute was the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which is concerned with creating favorable environment for all traders in the country. Their involvement was also in the line of duty as they are responsible for avoiding any form of inconveniences to the business operations in the country.

Point Of Conflict in the NSW Train Workers’ Dispute of January

There were a number of points of conflict in the January dispute. Each of the points of conflict involved at least two parties who had differences in ideas on how the issue should be handled. The major points of conflict in this case include low pay rates for the train workers in the country, unplanned and restored overtime, ruling out of the planned strike and support of the rule out decision.

The Train, Tram and Buses union of Australia had the feeling that workers were not receiving worthy wages and that they deserved a pay increment following the nature of duties they were handling in the train company of Sydney. In this dispute, a union-employer interrelationships as well as union-employee relationships were involved. The union was advocating for better life of the employees through demanding for a pay increase for the employees. Their argument was based upon the fact that the train workers’ salaries had remained stagnant for a long time and therefore needed an increase. The union representatives also claimed that the cost of life is becoming unaffordable for train workers who he claimed are not receiving good [pays enough to maintain high costs of life in the country. This drove the union to declaring a 24-hour strike in the country in demand for pay increase.

According to the report, this is another potential point of conflict in this dispute. The dispute involved employees in the train company and the train company management, thus an employee-employer based conflict. The workers were against interference to their working schedule where they were called upon to handle overtime duties which are not planned. This perhaps was causing inconveniences to their plans, especially after work, hence making them uncomfortable with their jobs. The employees therefore made a decision that they would not attend to any unplanned and restored overtime duties, especially those that come after 6PM.

On the other side, the employers felt it was not right taking this course because it would cause inconveniences to their clients, the business people who want their goods transported to markets at the time of their convenience. The employee-employer relationships were affected much in this case as they had difference in opinions concerning taking roles at time which were considered odd by the employees. Employers on the other side felt it was necessary as they needed to satisfy all the needs of their clients.

The Fair Work Commission of Australia ordered New South Wales rail workers to abandon their planned strike and continue working as per their job schedule. FWC deputy director said that the strike was unlawful and should be abandoned whatsoever. He explained that it would have dangerous impacts to the economy of the country added that the strike would massively compromise on their operations, extending to business activities which is the major support to the economy of the province and the entire country.

Lower pay rates for train workers

Other than economic damages, that the commission linked the strike with, the deputy director added that safety of the citizens in the town would be much compromised. Deeming this strike unlawful was therefore based upon economic and safety risks that the strike was anticipated to have. This decision from this point of view was however much different from what was expected for the commission by the workers union (Lewin, Gollan, Pyman & Wilkinson, 2016). According to the union director, the decision was a grievous mistake as it was an indication that the fair work commission was joining hands with employers in the country to make life difficult for employees and employee unions.

Fair Work Commission is charged with responsibility of making sure that employers observe all the rights of employees and make right payments as rewards for their efforts in ensuring success of the firms. This led to several accusations against the commission by the union director, claiming that such steps of actions, barring salary increment demand moves by workers unions is the cause of salary stagnation in many companies of Australia. This clearly indicates that he, on behalf of the union was much upset by the decision of the commission of ordering cancellation of the planned strike. He also said that the commission should advocate for rights of employees in the country and not cause barriers to demands of employees. According to the reports, this was the biggest point of conflict in the dispute. Under normal conditions, the commission is supposed to be at the forefront in demanding for government positive response when there comes an issue like this.

A minister from the government in New South Wales confirmed his support for the cancelled strike. He said that the strike would be unlawful just as was explained by the deputy director of the Fair Work Commission of Australia. According to the minister, the strike would cause a lot of disruption in the city and may result to application of dangerous weapons which can be unsafe of a common citizen. Additionally, he explained his opinion, claiming that allowing this strike would liberate more strikes in the country. The minister said that Australian economy is currently staggering and allowing anything that would cause more destruction is much dangerous a risky for the whole Australian populations.

The speech by the minister was sounding sort of betrayal to the Train, Tram and buses Union of Australia. This is evident when the chairman of the union said that the government should be protecting her citizens, such an employee. This shows that the union had the feeling that Australian government, from the state of New South Wales was not doing enough as far as protecting the rights of her citizens. This caused a union-state conflict as the union felt that not enough support and attention had been given to the employees, who are citizens of Australia. A feeling that the government is collaborating with the employers in the country to harasses the citizens also arose.

Unplanned and restored overtime duties

Although this does not come openly, the phrase by the trade union director that cancelling this strike was a relief seems to offend the rail workers’ union. The workers union expects that other unions should help them in fighting for the rights of those who they represent. However, this does not happen and it openly comes out that the trade union was against their will of salary increment for the employees.

Each of the parties in this dispute took positions. In each case, each of the parties was representing their own interests in the industry, and thus can be said to be right for their position. In regard to the industrial relations theories, the Train, Tram and buses union seems to be in the position supportive position on increase of employee salaries. This is evident when it decides that the best action for employees is striking. On the other hand, the train management board is in the opposition at this point and does not want workers to boycott their duties to go and strike in the streets for their rights.  In the second point of conflict in the dispute, employees are in the opposition and they do not want irregular hours overtime. This is to support their interest of having enough time for their personal duties after work.

The employers however, have taken a different position and are after satisfying the needs of their clients. They insist that employees should be ready to attend to duties whenever they come, whether planned or not planned. The other party in this dispute is the government of New South Wales who wants the union to drop their plan of employee’s strike. In their point of view, the strike would cause a lot of economic damages as it will stop all business operations. it will also affect education department as many student travels by train to their various schools. The minister, who is the government representative in this case, argues that the strike would be considered unlawful since it will risk the safety of citizens in the city.

Disputes similar to the NSW rail workers in January 2018 are much dangerous and waken industrial relationships, thereby demotivating the working spirit among employees. They should therefore be avoided using any means possible. The employers should have considered a salary increment deal and provided a time frame for which it would take effect. This kind of negotiation should have made workers unions to hold on their strike and wait for the implementation of the employee salaries. Employees on the other side should have considered negotiation on payment for unplanned and restored overtime duties instead of boycotting. This could help in arriving to a solution, with which both employees and employer would be satisfied, eliminating any form of dispute.

Suspension on the planned strike

The Fair Worn Commission of Australia should have considered bringing the union and the employer to negotiate on a fair deal, where both employer and the union would not feel offended. Lastly, it is recommended that the government set favorable minimum pay rates and a standard rate of salary increment to eliminate cases clash between employee unions and employers because of salary issues.

What drives workers to change the norm of their work surrounding from time to time and how do they structure their resistance? The answer to these questions has their foundations based on the issue of the employee or industrial relations. Workers and employees are constantly finding ways to adjust to the changing work environment. To adjust to these changes, the workers or employees have to create a relationship with their employers to ensure their needs are looked into. Workers, on the other hand, have to ensure the workers are managed to promote productiveness.

Employment/Industrial relations cover the interaction between the employer and the employee and how the two parties related collectively and individually including the procedures at an organizational or industrial level (Rose, 2008). Kaufman (2010) argues that industrial relationship can be termed to be the process of regulating job, production, and making of rules at the workplace. In my thoughts, I can elaborate Industrial relations to include means of representing the employees as well as the employers at the workplace. From the ideas raised concerning IR, the characteristics of the relationships can be explained using different theories. For Instance, the issue pertaining to the planned strike by transport workers can be viewed as a way for employees to raise their concerns and demand their rights.

Concerning the relevance of employment relation, several approaches/ theories have been used to discuss the nature of the industrial relation. For instance, the Unitary theory considers the working relationship between the employer and management as a ‘one family’ relationship where the organization (made up of employees and management) share a common goal (Tirintetaake, 2017). According to the theory’s perspective, the organization is to point towards a loyal structure of a unified authority. The theory bases its argument on the issue of common values, objectives and shared interests. The approach views a conflict as an evil, irrational and illegitimate Endeavor.

Striking in this approach is seen as indiscipline and those who strike should be sacked without negotiation. In the case of the Great Sydney transport workers, all those who planned and organized the strike could be referred to as evil and according to this approach, they would all be retrenched. The trade unions in the unitary approach are seen as intruders who disrupt the ability of the management to manage the workplace. Trade unions are also seen as competitors to the management with an aim of competing for the loyalty of employees (Rose, 2008). Trade unions are seen to promote agitation by raising imaginative grievances that are unrealistic and cause confusion to the workers and the management (Borelli, 2016). The unitary theory views an employee as a working machine that should be removed if not productive enough.

NSW government support on the strike suspension

The Marxist theory on Industrial relation is more concerned with the worker. The approach is not strict to industrial relation alone but it enquires power relations in a capitalist society (Atzeni, 2010). Marx views the employment relationship as an issue of politics and class struggle. This approach is founded on the fact that the capitalists, who are the owners of the means of production are concerned with the generation of surplus profits by exploiting the workers who are referred to as proletariats. The workers, on the other hand, are concerned with maximizing their wages by selling labor at high prices to maintain their existence (Hogler, 2004). This creates a conflict between employees and employers, which is the ‘class struggle’.

In my own view, there exists a class struggle in the relationship due to the fact that employers are always exploiting the workers otherwise, the relationship could be peaceful. In the case of the railway staff had an agreement with the employment authority concerning a pay rise but the authority failed to revise the payment schedule (Bose & Mudgal, 2016). Instead, they reduced the proposed rise from 6% to 2.5%. This was unacceptable and it created conflict as to the employees, this was a form of exploitation. According to Marxist theory, the workers form collective structures aimed at protecting their interests (Hall, 2006). Unlike the unitary theory, trade unions in Marxist theory are inevitable. Collective bargaining through the trade Unions helps in regulating the conflict at work promoting gains for the employee though temporary. In Australia, Unions such as RTBU, APESMA, and ACTU supported the rights of the train employees though they opted for better procedures that are less disruptive to air their demands to the employment authority.

According to my knowledge on trade unions, the unions are of great importance to the workers as they help by influencing regulations and conditions at the workplace to protect and improve the well-being of workers. Trade unions work also by ensuring employees demands and needs are communicated to the employer or the management. The pluralist approach views industrial relations as a complicated issue that needs balancing (Gollan, & Lewin, 2012). Balancing, in this case, is achieved through compromising between the competing/conflicting parties. In this approach, trade unions are accepted as legitimate institutions that solve conflicts between the workers and the management by collective bargaining (Tirintetaake, 2017). Both the employer and the worker need to ensure they meet the survival needs of each other by coming up with a method of adjusting their differences for mutual benefit.

The practice of IR has been largely influenced by IR theories making employment relation an important aspect in an organization. For the worker and the employee to succeed in achieving their common goal, they have to understand that the survival of both parties is dependent on each one of them. An employer depends on workers vice versa. Conflicts and disagreements have to be solved through compromising and bargaining to the satisfaction of each party.

Conclusion

The discussion shown in this paper therefore, reveals that the major parties that participated in the dispute included the Train, Tram and Buses union. Furthermore, the Fair Work Commission also saw the need to participate in the strike following what a majority of employees said that they were being under paid. The involvement of the Australian Council of Trade Unions is a clear indicator that employment sectors need to create favorable environments for employees. Even though employees succeeded in coming together to advocate for their rights, it is imperative noting that a number of conflicts also came up. For instance, some of the conflicts that affected proper functioning of the union included low pay rates for the train workers in the country, unplanned and restored overtime, ruling out of the planned strike and support of the rule out decision.

References

Atzeni, M. (2010). A Marxist perspective on workers collective action. Workplace conflict: mobilization and solidarity in Argentina. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved on October 6, 2018, from https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/dspace-jspui/bitstream/2134/7845/3/Marxist_perspective_Atzeni_Chapter2.pdf

Borelli, S. (2016). Employment Relations and Transformation of the Enterprise in the Global Economy. Torino: G. Giappichelli Editore.

Bose, I., & Mudgal, R. K. (2016). Changing Perspectives of Employment Relations in the Globalized World: a Critical Review. Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, 52(1), 50–57.

Eldor, L., & Vigoda-Gadot, E. (2017). The nature of employee engagement: rethinking the employee–organization relationship. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 28(3), 526–552.

Gollan, P. J., & Lewin, D. (2012). Advances in Industrial & Labor Relations. Bingley, U.K.: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Gollan, P., Kaufman, B. E., & Lewin, D. (2011). Advances in Industrial and Labor Relations (Vol. 1st ed). Bingley, U.K.: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Govorun, D., Kostyuk, A., & Stiglbauer, M. (2016). The Theory and Practice of Directors’ Remuneration?: New Challenges and Opportunities (Vol. First edition). Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Hall, R. (2006). Industrial Relations?: A Current Review. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Hogler, R. L. (2004). Employment Relations in the United States?: Law, Policy, and Practice. Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Katz, H. C., Kochan, T. A., & Colvin, A. J. (2017). An Introduction to U.S. Collective Bargaining and Labor Relations (Vol. Fifth edition). Ithaca: ILR Press.

Kaufman, B.E. (2010). The Theoretical Foundation of Industrial Relations and its implications.  Industrial and Labor Relations Review 64(1):74-108

Lewin, D., & Gollan, P. J. (2015). Advances in Industrial and Labor Relations. Bingley, U.K.: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Lewin, D., Gollan, P. J., Pyman, A., & Wilkinson, A. (2016). Employee Voice in Emerging Economies. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Rose, E.D. (2008) Employment Relations. (3rd edn). London: Pearson Education Ltd.

Tirintetaake, I. (2017). Pluralist theory vs unitary theory vs Radical/Marxist theory. University of the South Pacific. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316646094. On October 6, 2018

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