The Strengths and Weaknesses of Non-Union Arrangements for Promoting Employee Representation at Work
Table of Contents
Developments at the workplace have seen the use of union organizations as an avenue of representing employees taking root in different parts of the world. The unions are charged with a responsibility of protecting the rights and interests of employees that they represent. Collective bargaining is a main task of these union organizations. Employers are, therefore, required to consult with the relevant union organizations when they want to introduce changes. These ones are likely to affect their employees. In the face of increased activities of union organizations, non-union arrangements as forms of promoting the representation of employees at work also exist. While many employees are joining union organizations, others prefer to deal with their employers directly instead of using representatives. Non-union arrangements of employee representation at work may be in a form of individuals representing themselves of working in groups. This paper examines outstanding strengths and weaknesses that non-union arrangements encounter in advancing the interests of employees at work.
Non-union arrangement of employee representation at the workplace is a practice that has picked up in many organizations because of the strengths that come with this practice (Williams 2014). While union organizations have proven to be dominant when it comes to championing for and protecting the rights of employees, they cannot take care of all personnel needs. It is for this reason that some organizations have seen a need to incorporate different forms of non-union representation of employees to fill in the gaps. Non-union representation of workers is consistent with Michael Albert’s theory of participatory economics. According to Albert’s theory of participatory economics, non-unionized bargains have proven to bear fruits. It has increased opportunities of active employee involvement in the affairs of organizations leading to balanced job complexes (Gollan & Lewin 2013). This practice has been encouraged by the UK government following a directive by the European Union. A framework to guide the consultation of employees should be established.
Non-union forms of the employees’ representation at the workplace go a long way in improving communication between employers and employees. This type of employee representation requires that personnel represent themselves directly as opposed to the use of intermediaries. There is the case in the representation of employees through union organizations (Gollan 2003). When situations that require consultation arise, employees have to approach employers or the latter ones have to approach workers. It makes employers more accessible to employees encouraging some communication between the two parties. The Institute for Employment Studies has conducted a study on five organizations in the UK. It has showed that non-union employee representation at work necessitated the direct involvement of employee in decision making with an impact of strengthening relationships between employers and employees. The organizations that were involved in the research had the ways of informing employees on organizational developments. In some cases, the senior management of the companies engaged employees in face-to-face conversations.
Non-union representation of employees at work develops and nurtures the spirit of trust between employers and workers as well as openness in the organization, as a whole. Several studies have revealed that most of the personnel in the companies that supported direct employee representation were satisfied with the arrangements. Such ones have been made by their organizations (Heery 2011). The employees were of an opinion that their contributions to their respective companies were valued. Therefore, trust prevails because of the following feeling. The employers have the employees’ interests at heart. Employers also show that they trust their personnel by involving them in decision-making. Once trust has been established between the employers/managers and employees, each party will do its best to maintain it. To do this, the parties try to maintain honest communication. Such arrangements have the same advantages as the intrinsic theory of values. The reason is that it makes employees to perceive themselves as valuable assets in a firm (Heery 2011). Consequently, the spirit of openness is developed in the enterprise.
The representation of the personnel by non-union organizations at their places of work reduces the negative influences of external parties in negotiations between employers and employees. The direct representation on an individual basis or through groups eliminates the need to involve external parties such as trade unions (Heery 2011). It should be noted that workers are more aware of the factors that affect the companies which they work for. Therefore, the employees are more likely to take into consideration such factors when making demands to their employers. However, when external parties are involved in negotiations and decision-making, they are likely to influence workers. It may complicate communication between employers and employees. Organizations that have the support non-union representation of their personnel in the UK by encouraging a direct employee involvement in decision-making and negotiations are reaping the rewards. For instance, an operation in British Bakeries has improved. The reason is that the direct involvement of employee has reduced the involvement of trade unions in the affairs of the company.
Non-union arrangements of employee representation at work have made it necessary for workers to be taken through training to enable them to understand new working approaches. When employees represent themselves directly, they are usually involved in decision-making especially on the matters affecting workers themselves. They are usually engaged in consultative meetings with senior managers who have been trained. It makes it necessary for companies to create training programs for the personnel to be trained on decision-making (Gollan & Lewin 2013). The practice of involving employees in organizational affairs that affect them has taken some roots in many countries such as the European countries and the United States. For the workers to make meaningful contributions when they are invited to make their involvement, they must understand how the processes work. The knowledge spillover theory also comes into play here because employees interact with the senior management; they exchange a great deal of ideas in the process.
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The direct representation of employees at work makes them be more committed in participating in their affairs and those of their employers. It is unlike the representation of workers by trade unions. They usually put the interests of majority of their members first. Some union members may not show commitment to the activities of unions if they feel that their interests are not being taken care of. On the other hand, non-union representation of employees such as individual representation allows individual employees to participate in decision-making. As such, their employers and senior managers have to consult workers on various organizational policies and decision-making processes. Making such arrangements where employees are involved in decision-making goes a long way to make workers to feel part of the processes. The study that has been conducted by the Institute of Employment Studies also revealed that non-union representation of employees at work was more effective in making the personnel to be committed in participating in the affairs of their organizations.
Using different methods that allow workers to represent themselves directly also reduces cases of making changes that are crisis driven. Negotiations involving union organizations that represent employees are usually characterized by hardline positions by both employers and union organizations. In most cases, changes are made after the hardline positions have led to crisis. Cases of strikes involving employees who belong to trade unions have been witnessed in different parts of the world including the UK and the US. Such strikes have had an effect of disrupting the provision of services and goods in the organizations that have experienced them. When such crises emerge, employers are forced to make rush decisions to allow the personnel to return to work. However, in most cases, the changes favor employees and not employers. Such scenarios are rare when it comes to non-union arrangements of employee representation at work. Decision-making in non-union representation of employees is usually done keeping in mind the employees’ interests as well as those of an employer.
Non-union representation of workers at work benefits organizations just as it does employers. This advantage has made many organizations to embrace different forms of non-union employee representation. The involvement of the personnel in various issues affecting their respective organizations diverts their attention from exclusively focusing on engaging in negotiations to have their terms of work and salaries improved. Apart from training employees on how to decision-making on factors only affect employees, workers are also trained on other organizational policies. It has seen a dominance of trade unions decline in countries such as Britain, Australia, and the United States. Non-union forms of employee representation encourage cooperation in organizations. It has an effect of improving efficiency and hence productivity in organizations. The employees’ productivity rises because their knowledge about the operations of companies which they work for improves through training. Therefore, companies and individual workers benefit in an equal measure from non-union representation of the personnel at work.
Non-union arrangements in promoting the representation of workers at the workplace have faced challenges largely because of the dominance of union organizations. In the United States, for instance, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) has been largely blamed for crippling non-union arrangements of employee representation (Gollan & Lewin 2013). Critics of the NLRA are of the opinion that the act limits the scope of the forms of non-union arrangements of employee representation. The support that union companies receive prevents non-union arrangements of employee representation from competing with them. Non-union arrangements of employee representation have also failed to prove as effective avenues of employee representation.
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One of the weaknesses of non-union employee representation at work is that they do not give their personnel a full control in bargaining. One of benefits that workers who belong to unions enjoy is that they have more power because they work as a large group (Dundon et al. 2004). The unions usually represent employees from different organizations. It is not the case with non-union arrangements. The reason is that workers have to represent themselves as individuals or as groups within the companies. Employees in non-union arrangements may not have the freedom to use such strategies as strikes for fear of victimization by their employers. For this reason, such workers have to employ soft approaches in negotiating with management. Employers might take an advantage of this situation to ignore the demands of their employees. The latter ones belonging to trade unions, on the other hand, can seek an intervention of their unions when such situations arise. Many employers usually avoid conflicts with union organizations. The reason is that they are more powerful when it comes to championing for and protecting the rights of the personnel.
The fact that non-union representation of reduces employees bargaining power exposes its weaknesses in the personnel’s involvement in decision-making. Non-union forms of workers’ representation call for the involvement of them in decision-making especially in the matters that affect them. However, the inclusion of employees is still limited because the right to decide is usually reserved for the top management (Dundon et el 2004). It means a direct involvement of workers in the affairs that affect them may not realize tangible benefits for them. It occurs if the senior management is not committed to ensure that it works. There is usually a distance between workers and senior managers which requires a lot of efforts especially on the part of managers to bring the two parties closer. However, according to the theory of friction of distance, it is hard to bridge a gap between junior employees and senior managers (Heery 2011)
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Non-union arrangements for promoting the representation of employees at work tend to hide organizational disputes from the public. Most employers prefer non-union representation of workers. The reason is that they enable them to address issues affecting employees at the organizational level without involving external parties. While non-union arrangements of employee representation at work have proven to be more effective in addressing specific concerns of workers, there are cases where they fail to sort out their issues. The personnel may lack avenues to pursue justice when their concerns are not addressed. Such concerns were raised in Germany in 2012 when unions had risen against employers. They did not treat their employees well because they did not belong to unions that could protect them (Gollan & Lewin 2013). Many workers who are not members of union organizations usually suffer injustices. The reason is that the organizations try to solve the issues to prevent them from getting into the limelight. Employees who suffer such injustices may not be compensated adequately if they do not get external parties to support them.
Non-union arrangements for the representation of workers at the workplace tend to focus on improving their productivity rather than addressing issues to do with the personnel’s salaries and terms of service. Most organizations prefer non-union arrangements of employees’ representation at the working site. The reason is that they are aware that they improve efficiency in operations which results in improved productivity (Jenkins & Blyton 2008). For this reason, many employers/managers use employee empowerment to improve organizational productivity. The managers divert the attention of their workers making them to concentrate on forms of job satisfaction that do not emphasize on an increase in wages and improvement in terms of service. Organizations such as Toyota Company encourage their personnel to concentrate on producing high quality products. For this reason, their employees are usually preoccupied with work leaving them with the limited time to involve themselves in other matters. As such, non-union arrangements for employee representation at work fail in protecting their interests.
Non-union representations of workers at the workplace also complicate the functions of human resource departments. The HR departments in organizations that have non-union representation of the personnel have to put in place the necessary structures to ensure that the system works (Gomez, Bryson & Willman 2010). For instance, the companies have to provide their workers with the training so that they acquire the necessary skills. It can enable them to participate in consultation and decision-making. The management also has to establish an extent to which employees should be involved in the activities of the organizations so that operations are not affected. Making such decisions requires resources and a careful planning. Therefore, non-union representation of workers may prove to be costly to companies. The reason is that financial resources are required to take care of matters such as training. Bringing all the resources together and rolling out non-union programs to represent the personnel at work is, therefore, a burden to HR departments and the senior managers of organizations, in general.
Non-union arrangements that promote employee representation at work are picking up in many companies around the world. While union organizations still dominate in the area of representing the personnel’s interests, some firms and workers prefer non-union arrangements because of their strengths. Non-union arrangements usually improve communication between employers/managers and the employees. The reason is that they encourage consultations especially issues affecting employees. They also provide quick ways of negotiations because they eliminate the influence of external forces such as trade unions, which may encourage employee strikes. Therefore, both companies and workers benefit from non-union arrangements of employee representation. Non-union arrangements also have weaknesses because they lack bargaining power in championing for and protecting the rights of the personnel. That notwithstanding, non-union arrangements of employee representation at work are more effective than union organizations. The reason is that they tend to strike a balance between employers’ interests and employees’ ones.