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Core Components frames of reference and

theoretical approaches
Where are we heading now?
 Industrial relations is multidisciplinary-sociology,
economics and law are its mother disciplines.
 Industrial relations is about employee employer
 Workers require representation to take up their cause
or grievances.
 Industrial relations deals with the totality labour
 Industrial relations is both a contextual, day-to day
activity and a process
 Industrial relations is can be situated in the
behavioural realm in the short and long term and can
be located as mode of managing the employee
employer interaction through an effective governance
mechanism between management and labour
 It is a rule making process and an exchange of
Industrial Relations is a study of the institutions of Job
It concentrates on the nature and variety of interactions which
may be appropriately utilised to transform the conflict of
interest into rules regarding the organisation.
The processes may vary across a spectrum from unilateral
decision making (by management, employees or government)
through joint management or union processes( consultation,
collective bargaining) and employment involvement or
participation to tripartite processes involving management
unions and government.’

Allan Flanders
The regulatory output of Industrial Relations is
generally seen as rules. This emphasises the
fundamental consensus between the parties
regarding both the need to establish and maintain a
system(processes and institutions) through which
they may resolve their differences and the need for
both sides to reach and abide by outcomes from that
system. Needless to say what is warranted that the
requirement of an organised social structure to
established formalised norms of behaviour among its
A flaw in just viewing IR as an output brought
about by inputs of the three actors
Does not provide a framework for understanding either
the integrative nature of the parts which comprise IR
or its relationship to the wider contexts within which it
How does the Systems framework define Industrial
Relations (IR)
Industrial relations is an analytic subsystem of societies
located in the same plane as an economic system. The system
logic follows from a functional differentiation of the system into
4 subdomains- economy, polity, law and social control
Following the above differentiation IR’s study encompasses the
concepts, structure, function, practices, outcome and the
institutions that are constitutive of the employment
relationship have paved the way in the establishment of the
main framework of an industrial relations system.
What are the basic components of the wage labour
employment relationship?
Dunlop identified as the basic components of
an IRS three groups of actors (managers,
workers and their respective representatives,
and government institutions dealing with
industrial relations), three different
environmental contexts (technologies, markets,
and power distribution), and ideology "that
binds the IRS together”.
The Context of the IRS Explicated

The technological characteristics of the

workplace and work community. Changes in
technology enhance the employers
expectations about the skills of workers. The
work processes and methods facilitate
automation and greater work intensification
from workers.
Market or budgetary (economic) constraints
also influences industrial relations because
the need for labour is closely associated with
the demand for the products.
The locus and distribution of power in the
larger society in the form of power centres-the
workers, the employers and the government
also influences the relationship between
labour and management
The Ideology of an Industrial Relations System

By ideology Dunlop implies that it is a “set of ideas and beliefs commonly held by the
actors that helps to build or integrate the system together as an entity.” Its body of
common ideas that defines the role and place of each actor and the ideas that each
actor holds towards the place and function of the others in the system. The ideology of
a stable system involves a congruence or compatibility among these views and the rest
of the system.
Ideology not only circumscribes the role of each actor or a group of actors but also
defines the roles of other actors within the system. If the views of the roles, one with
another are compatible then the system is stable,. If the views are incompatible then
the system is unstable.
Actors operate within constraints.
The actors to recapitulate are a hierarchy of
managers and their representatives, a hierarchy of
non-managerial workers and their spokespersons, and
specialized governmental agencies.

These actors operate within the constraints identified

above, and are influenced and limited by the
technology of the workplace and work community, the
market and budgetary constraints, a complex web of
rules, and the locus and distribution of power in the
larger society.
The Rule Making framework of IR
These fundamental components that shape or outline
the industrial relations system in which they belong
to. The actors - hierarchy of managers, the hierarchy
of workers and the specialized government agencies
are the central personas in an industrial system. The
interaction and relationship within the three creates
the set of rules of the workplace or the principles of
the system.
Establishment (and development) of the set of rules is
the pivotal focus of an industrial relations system. The
body of rules in the system administers the actors in
the place of work.
What does the Industrial Relations system comprise of ?The
main kernel of the framework.

The internal structure of an industrial relations system[IRS] is a

web of rules.
By this internal structure he implied in particular, the institutions
and norms that frame the IRS and its outcomes, including
substantive norms (e.g., wage rates, working hours) and
procedural institutions (e.g., conciliation and arbitration boards).
The Industrial relations system was envisaged in terms of both
process and product: as a rule-guided process generating as its
product other rules governing the actors and administered by
systems of industrial relations at the national, industry, or plant
level helped in maintaining the production system.
ACCORDING TO DUNLOP –The players of an Industrial
Relations system connect in the following manner delineated-
The Network or Web of Rules
For Dunlop, the establishment of
procedures and rules are at the heart of in
an industrial relations system. These rules
may be expressed in a variety of forms:
the regulations and policies that ramify
within and across the management
the regulations, decrees, decisions,
awards or order of government agencies
The rules and decisions of specialized
agencies created by the management and
worker hierarchies
Collective bargaining agreements.
The customs and traditions of the
workplace and work community
In other words-Recapitulating
IR Systems vary in scope from an enterprise to a sector or to a
country as a whole. These actors interact to produce a network
of rules which define their status and govern their conduct. The
actors are regarded as confronting an environmental context
which constrains and shapes their behavior. Industrial relations
Systems, he said, are held together by a common ideology.

Dunlop proposed that the study of rules and rule-making

regarding employment relations be regarded as the central
focus for IR inquiry.
He intended his framework to apply to ail industrialized and
industrialising countries. The study of IR Systems, he argued,
would provide a genuine discipline(Dunlop, 1958, p. 6).
What are the constituent component of these rules?

These rules are organized within the system and consist of (a)
procedure and authority for making rules
(b) substantive rules - related to market or budgetary
constraints and related to distribution of power in larger
society such as compensation, duties and discipline as well as
the rules of discipline. They pertain to the rights and
obligations of the employer in the contractual wage or work
Procedural rules define the conduct of the relationship
grievance, discipline, union recognition, CB etc.
(c) administrative rules governing work place and the work
community which involves policies of management hierarchy,
laws of worker hierarchy, regulations / decisions/ orders by
government agencies, collective bargaining agreements and
the customs and traditions of work place and work community.
Within the above dichotomy of rules there underlies an
undercurrent of differing degrees of formality in the
determination and recording of rules ranging from
informal and unwritten custom and practice to
codification in formal written documents(policies
procedures and documents)
The Industrial Relations system is the at the centre of analysis
and is not an outcome. The How question.

The Industrial Relations system is pivot of the analysis

of the system while earlier accounts simplistically
reduced Industrial relations as a consequence of
collective bargaining between management and labour.
Summarising the functional relationship-
But a caveat needs to be added
with regard to Dunlop
As Kauffman[2004] points out that this conceptualization IR
system does not tell us how rules are made.
These rules lead us only to appreciate that the IR system is
only "a general framework to organize a description of the
interaction between the actors, the environmental contexts and
the ideologies" (Meltz 1991:14). Thus, the theoretical status
reads as a taxonomy or a matrix which lists out and helps to
order listing, the key elements and components that have to be
taken into account when analyzing an Industrial Relations
Stability and self-preservation of the IR system

The industrial relations system should be the output or rule

making process as opposed to the totality of the worker
management relationship. In short it deals with the how aspect
of rules-How do rules come to regulate and IR system.
An analytic distinction is made between the system that
produces rules and the system that is governed by the rules.
From the above proposition it follows that the objective of the
system is primarily seen in terms of the stability and the
ultimate survival of the system is sustained by a common
ideology amongst actors that integrates the system. The
underlying assumption is that the IRS should be naturally stable
and orderly and support business objectives rather than being
an end in itself.
Criticisms levelled against Dunlop

--- Ignores conflict and change

----> Stability and orderliness are naturally
-- Narrow focus on roles rather than on people
-- Does not reflect the real nature of wider
-- Were the location of the contexts(for
example technological and market) a part of the
system or an extended constraint.
Introducing Pluralism- Multiple actors having a
multiplicity of interests
These plurality of interests give rise to a complex of
tensions and competing claims each of which need to
be managed in the interests of maintaining a viable
collaborative structure.
These interests influence the interaction of labour
markets and the Industrial relations system.
The organisation is in a permanent state of dynamic
tension resulting from the inherent conflict of
interests between various sectional groups and
requires through a variety of roles institutions and
Hence IR is a rule making process, a process of joint
regulation and an exchange of interests.
Pluralism-Main underlying assumptions.
These sectional groups exist only in so far as they have a
common interest in the survival of the whole of which they are
parts and this is at best a remote long term consideration.
The normative divergences are not so fundamental or so wide
to be unbridgeable by compromises
There is a basic procedural consensus that managements
and unions will always be able to negotiate comprehensive
codified systems of regulation.
There can and should be a balance of power between two
Resolution of conflict is achieved through institutional means
and codified procedures which in effect is through collective
Management can gain control only by losing it Allan
Flanders{1970}-Management and Unions
The employment relationship is contradictory.
Employers must reconcile their own control and
surveillance with workers consent and
This continuum of control and consent depends
on different types of worker and work.
Partnership with trade unions for example
represents one of the means of sustaining
control while simultaneously enhancing
managerial legitimacy
The legitimacy for trade unions within pluralism

The pluralistic approach accepts the legitimacy of employees

combining in formal organisations to express their interests
influence management decisions and achieve their objectives.
This legitimacy is premised upon not merely on industrial
power or management acceptance but on social values that
recognise the right of interest groups to combine and have a
say in shaping their destiny.
The core point employees through their horizontal linkages with
employees in other organisations will owe loyalty to authority
structures other than their own management and may only
pursue not only narrow organisational interests but also wider
‘fraternalistic’ interests.
It enquires into why do rules emerge as opposed to how do
rules emerge.
As is self-evident
“To define the subject exclusively in terms of rules and
regulation is far too restrictive, and has unfortunate evaluative
The implication is that what industrial relations is all about is
the maintenance of stability and regularity in industry.
The focus is on how any conflict is contained and controlled,
rather than on the processes through which disagreements
and disputes are generated. From this perspective, the
question whether the existing structure of ownership and
control in industry is an inevitable source of conf1ict is
dismissed as external to the study of industrial relations.”
(Hyman 1975:11)
The Conflict approach-The underlying Marxist framework

The Marxist approach to industrial relations accepts that conflict exists but that
at present there is little balance between organised labour and capital, especially
in an era of globalization. When there is a huge difference in power between
different groups in society, including the work-place, the group with the greater
power rarely has to use it. This is because excessive power regularly transforms
itself into a legitimate authority in the thinking of those it seeks to control.

Therefore workers often come to believe that there is no alternative to the way
their world is. The status quo becomes legitimate, and workers come to accept
that “what is” means “what must be.”
The labour or capital relationship is essentially one of
exploitation wherein surplus value from work activities accrues to
The logic of accumulation requires capital continually to develop
the production process and cheapen the process of production
Continual development of the production process requires the
establishment and maintenance of general and specific structures
of control
The resultant structured antagonism relationship includes
systematic attempts by capital to obtain co-operation and consent
and a continuum of possible and overlapping worker responses
from resistance to accommodation on temporary common
objectives, to compliance with the great power of capital and
consent to the production process{Braverman 1977}
Where is the conflict perspective leading us toward?

Richard Hyman argued that "order" and "regulation"

were only one side of IR its; instability and disorder
must be evaluated as of "equal significance as 'system
outcomes'" (Hyman 1975:12). This led him to conclude
that industrial relations were not to be defined as "the
study of job regulation“ but rather as "the study of
processes of control over work relations“ (1975:12).
Therefore the class conflict is inevitable and is
fundamentally derived from economic disparity that
reinforces the position of the dominant establishment
group which is management which has control over
the labour process.
Management labour relationship can never
ever be on a level playing field-Why?
Management labour relationship is asymmetrical and the
social structure and legal apparatus supports this exertion
of managerial prerogative
This systemic inequality appears natural and inequality an
taken for granted
The obligations undertaken by management are relatively
precise and specific while the obligations on the part of
the worker are imprecise and elastic
In return for a wage the employee is expected to provide
faithful service, obey all in the eyes of the law-where
equality implies the employer order and the employee
1.Flanders Allan[1970] Management and Unions, Faber
and Faber ,Great Britain.
2.Jentsch Muller Walther [2004] Theoretical Approaches to
IR in Kauffman Bruce ed, Theoretical Perspectives on
Work and the Employmen Relationship
http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/books/16. accessed on
22nd June 2015.
3.Salamon Michael[1998] Industrial Relations Theory and
Practice, Prentice Hall Publishing.