Industrial relations describes the relationship between management and labor. This can encompass not only relationships between management and workers but also between management and unions and even between government and the unions. Industrial relations work includes dispute settlement, working conditions, grievance procedures, recruitment, appraisal, communications, team-building and training. The objectives of industrial relations are therefore varied and wide-ranging.
A key objective of industrial relations is to avoid and manage disputes. Disputes between labor and management cause damage to both business and workers, so industrial relations practitioners aim to develop practices to reduce friction and resolve workplace issues. Practices include developing guidelines on communication, consultation, collective bargaining and clear grievance procedures. They can also include government involvement in union negotiations and in developing national policies on handling disputes.
Increased productivity not only helps business but it can also lead to a growing economy, which benefits labor and, ultimately, the entire population. Poor industrial relations can lead to strikes and walkouts, which lead in turn to low productivity and high costs to employer, employee and consumers.
An ultimate objective of good industrial relations is therefore to provide efficient production of goods and services. Efficiency requires meeting the needs of both employer and employee. Industrial relations practitioners can achieve this objective by setting terms and conditions of employment in such a way that both employer and employee benefit. They can negotiate disputes before they erupt into strikes.
Industrial relations practitioners aim to improve working conditions and to improve aspects of social protection such as better wages, safer working conditions, elimination of child labor and improvements to employee health and social security. By improving working conditions, frictions between labor and management lessen and society as a whole benefits. On the governmental level, industrial relations workers aim to shape the ways that businesses respond to challenges such as technological advances and economic changes.
- business colleagues preparing for business meeting image by Vladimir Melnik from Fotolia.com