Books Essay Example
Books Essay Example

Books Essay Example

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Without theory men cannot act, for a theory is a way of seeing, of understanding and of planning. Phoenix (1964) as cited in Asia (1995, p. 3) opines that "a theory or model provides an abstract pattern whose structure in relevant respects is congruent with the structure of the physical (and social) world, as demonstrated by agreement between observations and predictions made from the theory or model". We view theory as the substructure upon which practice or action which can be likened to the prefectures is based. A Theory is different from a model. Thus, a model or paradigm refers to the representation of reality. Models are simplified descriptions of real situations (Waters, 1998).

According to Cooper and Schneider (2001), there is a distinction between a model and a theory. Thus, models differ from theories in that a theory role is explanation whereas


a model's role is representation and simulation. Model is a representation of a system that is constructed to study some aspects of the system or the system as a whole (Cooper & Schneider, 2001). There are various typologies of models. Models could be iconic, analogue, statistical, mathematical, descriptive, graphical, as well as verbal.

Theories and models abound in the field of industrial relations. There are multifarious theories of 264 I neurotically Ana Management e logically Approaches to Social silences Ana Knowledge industrial relations as a result of its multidisciplinary nature; looking for a universal definition of industrial relations may be as stressful as looking for an ocean in the desert. This is so because, over the years, the concept has been subjected to different conceptual treatment (Gunrunner, 2004).

According to Burnham

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and Pimiento (1995), there are five theories by which industrial relations institutions, structures and processes are analyses. They opine that the theories which individuals develop about industrial relations are attempts to construct logically consistent ways of understanding and explaining social behavior and real-life activities in this complex field of human interest. These are the unitary, systems, conflict, Marxist and social action theories.

Salomon (2000) posits that industrial relations theories are unitary, pluralist or pluralistic, Marxist, systems and social action. Green (1994) classifies industrial relations theory as follows: Unitary perspective and a more recent variant, the neo-Unitarian perspective; conflict theory, including the Marxist and pluralist perspectives; systems approach and the contrasting social action perspective. No one perspective gives a perfect view but each illuminates our understanding of the subject.

There are a number of variations on all these themes. Green asserts that generally, a viewpoint, perspective or theory is put forward and this is then modified in the light of experience, criticism and changing circumstances. According to Toby 2000, p. 42), "theorizing is a continuous exercise and no one model has satisfied everyone in terms of taking into account all variables at play; attempts to provide more comprehensive theoretical expositions on the industrial relations system have not stopped".

There are paucity of studies or researches on theoretical approaches to employment and industrial relations in the Nigerian context. This study is an attempt to address this gap. In addition, it will add to the limited theoretical knowledge in this exciting area of study in a developing country like Nigeria. The objective of this paper s to attempt a comparison of the five most influential theoretical frameworks of

employment and industrial relations and to bring to the fore similarities and differences in the theoretical formulations.

The paper also examines a critical review of the theories and also highlights the major themes inherent in the theories. To achieve this objective, the paper adopts a theoretical approach. 2. Theoretical and conceptual framework Employment relations is the study of the regulation of the employment relationship between employer and employee, both collectively and individually, and the determination of substantive and procedural issues at industrial, organizational and workplace levels (Rose, 2008).

According to Kaufman (2010), industrial relations is viewed as the process of rule making for the workplace (Dunlop, 1958); Job regulation (Flanders, 1965); social regulation of production (Cox, 1971); the employment relationship as structured antagonism (Edwards, 2005); social regulation of market forces (Hyman, 1995); process of capitalist production and accumulation and the derived political and social class relations (Care, 1996 as cited in Kaufman, 2010); inflict of interests and pluralist forms of workplace governance (Cochin, 1998); class modulation Ana social Justice (Kelly, BY); ten advancement AT inclemency, equity and voice in the employment relationship (Bud, 2004); collective representation and social dialogue (European Industrial Relations Observatory, 2002).

According to Pain and College (1974), a traditional approach to employment and industrial Subsisting Orthodoxies 265 relations has been to regard it as the study of the rules governing employment, and the ways in which the rules are changed, interpreted and administered. We now turn o discussing the theoretical themes starting with the unitary theory. 2. 1 Unitary theory The unitary frame of reference is credited to Alan Fox (1966). The unitary perspective views the organization as pointing towards a single

or unified authority and loyalty structure. Emphasis under the unitary perspective is placed on common values, interest and objectives. Those subscribing to this view see all organizational participants as a team or family thereby implicitly emphasizing shared values, shared goals and common destiny.

Unitarianism in essence implies the absence of factionalism within the enterprise (Fajita, 2000). Conflict is viewed as irrational and the sacking of striking workers is preferred to consultation or negotiation. Conflict is regarded as pathological or evil or bad. Trade unionism is outlawed and suppressed as it is viewed as an illegitimate intrusion or encroachment on management's right to manage. According to Rose (2008), under the unitary perspective, trade unions are regarded as an intrusion into the organization from outside, competing with management for the loyalty of employees. The unitary theory tends towards authoritarianism and paternalism. It is pro- management biased and emphasizes nonsense and industrial peace.

The underlying assumption of this view is that the organization exists in perfect harmony and all conflict is unnecessary (Rose, 2008). 2. 2 Conflict theory Conflict theory is synonymous with the pluralist or the pluralistic frame of reference which is also credited to Alan Fox (1966). Conflict theory views the organization as coalescence of sectional groups with different values, interests and objectives. Thus, employees have different values and aspirations from those of management, and these values and aspirations are always in conflict with those of management. Conflict theorists argue that conflict is inevitable, rational, functional and normal situation in organizations, which is resolved through compromise and agreement or collective bargaining.

Conflict theorists view trade unions as legitimate challenges to managerial rule or prerogatives and emphasis

competition and collaboration. This view recognizes trade unions as legitimate representative organizations which enable groups of employees to influence management decisions (Rose, 2008). Rose further states that the pluralist perspective would seem to be much more relevant than the unitary perspective in the analysis of industrial elation's in many large unionized organizations and congruent with developments in contemporary society 2. 3 Systems theory The concept of system derives from the structural/functionalist perspectives of social system (society). This also connotes the macro-sociological, order or social system view AT collect .

Inner are several senses or meanings of the word function'. These are (I) teleological, where one asks about the goals or ends something serves (it) mathematical, where one refers to the co-variation of a set of variables e. G. If (x); (iii) configurations, where one speaks of the interdependence of a set of elements within a system, and asks 266 Theoretical and Methodological Approaches to Social Sciences and Knowledge what contribution each makes to the whole. The systems approach to industrial relations is configurations. Thus, Dunlop developed his theoretical approach of industrial relations on the basis of a systems concept and was heavily influenced by the prior work of Parsons (Fajita, 2000).

According to Gunrunner (2004), the American system approaches to the study of industrial relations were strongly influenced by structural/functionalist sociology. Dunlop based his model explicitly on Parsons social system, which assumed an inherent bias towards order and stability. Toby (2000, p. 17) posits that Dunlop began his explanatory model with a series of questions. "What meaning, then, is to be given to an industrial relations system"? (Toby, 2000, p. 17). "In what sense is

a 'system' involved? Can the term be given rigorous and analytical definition, or shall it remain a perceptive phrase corresponding to the insights of practical experience? Are there characteristics common to all industrial relations system? What factors distinguish one industrial elation's situation from another?

Can the same concept be used to facilitate analysis among sectors within a country and also among countries? " (Toby, 2000, p. 17). These questions posed by Dunlop (1958) were then followed by six general propositions. "An industrial- relations system is to be viewed as an analytical sub-system of an industrial society on the same logical plane as an economic system, regarded as another analytical sub-system. The industrial relations system is not coterminous with the economic system; in some respects the two overlap and in other respects both have different scopes. The procurement of a work force and the setting of compensation for labor services are common centers of interest.

A systematic explanation of production, however, is within economics but outside the scope of industrial relations. The full range of rule-making governing the work place is outside the scope of an economic system but central to an industrial relations system. An industrial relations system is not a subsidiary part of an economic system but is rather a separate and distinctive subsystem of the society, on the same plane as an economic system. Thus, the theoretical tools designed to explain the economic yester are not likely to be entirely suitable to another different analytical subsystem of society. Just as there are relationships and boundary lines between a society and an economy, so also are there between a society and an industrial relations


All analysis of the economy makes some assumptions, explicitly or implicitly, about the remainder of the social system, so also must an analysis of an industrial relations system make some assumptions about the rest of the social system. An industrial relations system Is logically an castration Just as an economic system Is an abstraction. Neither is concerned with behavior as a whole. There are no actors whose whole activity is confined solely to the industrial relations or economic spheres, although some may approach this limit. Neither an economic system nor an industrial relations system is designed simply to describe in factual terms the real world of time and space. Both are abstractions designed to highlight relationship and to focus attention upon critical variables and to formulate propositions for historical inquiry and statistical testing.

This view of an industrial relations system permits a extinctive analytical and theoretical subject matter. To date the study of industrial relations had little theoretical content. At its origin and frequently at its best, it has been largely historical and 267 descriptive. A number of studies have used the analysis of economics particularly in treating wages and related questions and other studies, particularly of factory departments; have borrowed the apparatus of anthropology and sociology. Although, industrial relations aspires to be a discipline, and even though there exists separate professional societies, industrial relations has lacked any central analytical content.

It has been a crossroads where a number of disciplines have met, history, economics, government, sociology, psychology and law. Industrial relations requires a theoretical core in order to relate isolated facts, to point to new types of inquiries and to make research more

additive. The study of industrial relations systems provides a genuine discipline. Three separate analytical problem are to be distinguished in this framework (a) the relation of the industrial relations to the society as a whole (b) the relation of the industrial relations system to the subsystem known as the economic yester and (c) the inner structure and characteristics of the industrial relations subsystem itself.

More so, the market or budgetary constraints also indirectly influences the technology and other characteristics of the work place, including the scale and size of operations. In all, an industrial 268 relations system created and administered by its actors is adaptive to its market and budgetary constraints (Toby, 2000). More so, the profitability of the enterprise depends on its product market. The locus and distribution of power in the larger society: The relative distribution of power among the actors in the larger society tends to a degree to be reflected within the industrial relations system. Thus, the distribution of power within the industrial relations system is affected by the distribution of power in the wider society.

Dunlop is not concerned about the distribution of power within the industrial relations system, nor with the relative bargaining powers among the actors, nor their controls over the processes of interaction or rule setting, rather the reference to the distribution of power outside the industrial relations system. Thus, the wider society is seen as providing certain external influences and constraints but not as completely dominating industrial relations system. 3 3 A Day AT rules I nee actors In glove contexts straddles rules Tort ten workplace and work community. Actors establish rules that govern their

own interactions. Dunlop referred to this as the "web of rules" that governs the parties. There is no assumption by Dunlop that these rules are Jointly made by the actors. These rules he referred to as the substantive and procedural rules. Thus, the creation of rules is seen to be the central aim of the industrial relations system.

The substantive rules pertain to issues involving wages/salaries, hours of work and other terms and conditions of employment. On the other hand, the procedural rules relate to the rules governing discipline, redundancy, settlement of disputes, periodicity of meetings, renewal of collective agreements and the like. The rules of the industrial relations systems may be expressed in a variety of forms such as the regulations and policies of the management hierarchy, the laws of any worker hierarchy, the regulations, decrees, decisions, awards or orders of governmental agencies, collective bargaining agreements and the customs and traditions of the work place and work community. The rules may be written, an oral tradition or customary practice.

Thus, he establishment and administration of these rules is the major concern or output of the industrial relations sub-system of industrial society. 2. 3. 4 Ideology Ideology connotes a set of ideas and beliefs commonly held by the actors that helps to bind or integrate the system together as an entity. According to Toby (2000, p. 28) citing Dunlop "each of the actors in an industrial relations system may be said to have its own ideology. Dunlop insists rather strongly that all these ideologies must be sufficiently compatible or consistent to permit a common set of ideas which recognize an acceptable role for each actor".

Dunlop assumes that the ideology of IRS system must be one or the same among the actors.

As could be deduced from the above model, there are three sets of independent variables in an industrial relations systems, the actors, the contexts and the ideology of the system, while the rules represent the dependent variable or the output of the industrial relations system. The dynamic model of the systemic paradigm, open system analysis and the oxford school are further elaboration of the Dunlop model. 269 Source: Burnham, D. & Pimiento, J. (1995). Understanding Industrial Relations. (teethed). London: Classes Fig. 1. A Simple Model of an Industrial Relations System 2. 4 The dynamic model of the systemic paradigm The dynamic model of the systemic paradigm of industrial relations is a refinement to Dunlop analytical framework. This dynamic model is credited to Blain and Gendered (1970).

The duo adopted Dunlop proposition of an industrial relations system being on the same logical plane as the economic subsystem. Their work centered on classifying the variables in an industrial relations system Into dependent Ana Independent variables, a task ten Dunlop model mace difficult to achieve. They expressed the industrial relations system algebraically as shown below: r = f (a, t, e, s, I) Where, r = the rules of the industrial relations system a = the actors t = the technical context of the work place. E = economic or the market/ budgetary constraint 270 s = the power context and the status of the parties I = the ideology of the system.

From the above equation, the rules can be viewed as the dependent variables being determined by the interaction

of the five independent variables. Thus, the function of the industrial relations system is to establish a set of rules for the workplace and work community. In dynamic society the rules will frequently alter as a result of changes in the contexts or environment. Thus, the dynamic model emanated as a response to the criticisms leveled against the Dunlop system model. It has been criticized as having a static view of industrial relations. 2. 5 The open system analysis Dunlop systems theory uses the term 'system' in a too loose and undefined manner.

The open system analysis is concerned with looking at industrial relations system in terms of inputs and outputs and the interaction with the environment. According to Kenton, O' Donned and Heroic (1980, p. 9) "almost all life is a system. Our bodies certainly are. Our homes and universities are, as are our government agencies and our businesses. " Systems have inter-related parts which work together to form a complex unity or whole. The features of a system are as follows: 0 0 Whole: a system is more than the sum of its parts. It must be viewed as a whole. Closed or open: A system is regarded as open if it exchanges information, energy or material with its environment. A closed system is one that does not have interactions with its environment. All social systems are by nature open systems.

Boundary: Every system has boundaries which separate it from its environment. Input and output: All systems which interact with the environment are amenable to receiving inputs from other systems and giving output to other systems. Feedback: An informational input that tells whether

the system is indeed at least achieving a steady state and is not in danger of destruction. Homeostasis: This is referred to as dynamic homeostasis (steady state). Hence an organization will not be able to survive if its inputs do not at least equal its outputs. Subsystems: With the exception of the Universe, all systems re subsystems. That is every system is a component of other larger systems.

Equability: All open systems have common ends or objectives as everyone performs in a manner that will enhance the attainment of the broad objectives of the system Differentiation and Elaboration: As the system grows, it tends to become more specialized in its elements and to elaborate its structure. This is exemplified by the expansion of product lines or creation of new sales offices by an organization. Having stated some AT ten counterblasts AT a system, one would De apt to state Tanat he Dunlop model of an industrial relations system ought to have followed the open system concept in formulating an industrial relations system instead of seeing it as a system of rules, which appears too parochial.

The systemic paradigm by Dunlop has attracted an avalanche of criticisms, some of which are as follows: 0 The heroic assumption taken by Dunlop that an industrial relations system will necessarily be homeostasis has been criticized. This is because industrial conflicts are 271 never truly resolved and one problem arises after another. So, the system is not impolitely stable as claimed by Dunlop The model provides no explanation of the causes of industrial action but laid more emphasis on conflict resolution. Dunlop formulation of an industrial relations system largely omits

such behavioral variables as human motivation, perception and attitudes, personality and small group interaction. He laid more emphasis on institutions (trade unions, employers associations).

Dunlop identified three main actors in the industrial relations system but failed to make reference to the owners of industrial property. It has been argued, hat this omission stems from the fact that decisions in the industrial relations system are made by managers and not owners. Some have argued that the number of actors has to be increased. Another flaw is that Dunlop idea of a system is a deterministic mechanism. Dunlop actors are not persons. The model suffers from reification. No provision for the role of individual personalities was advanced. Limited predictive value associated with the systems model makes it difficult to forecast whether the system will experience more or less conflicts as a result of a given hang in one or more of the environmental contexts.

It suffers a handicap in that it does not take Into account ten processes Dye wanly ten rules AT ten system are determined or made. One of the criticisms of the system approach is the difficulty in defining a system. There was no clear definition of what was meant by the concept of a system itself. This failure may have caused some writers to misrepresent the theory of industrial relations system. What is the substance of a system of industrial relations? This was the question raised by Flanders. Not until recently has it been dated that a system of industrial relations is a system of rules. However, a system of industrial relations as propounded by Dunlop is not a system of rules but

a conceptual framework in which one component element is the rules.

The systems approach has been misrepresented by a Sociologist, Eliding who conceptualized the model as being comprised of only three elements (the actors, rules and ideology). The claim by Dunlop that the industrial relations system is on the same logical plane as the economic system is not correct, as Wood, Wagner, Armstrong, Goodman and Davis 1975) have pointed out, once Dunlop accepted the Parson social system that the social system is comprised of four functional sub-systems (the economic, political, integrative and pattern- maintenance) the industrial relations system could not therefore be on the same logical plane as the economic system, but it should be construed as on a lower logical plane than the economic system.

It is criticized that the framework is static, not dynamic in time as processes are ignored. The systems theory concentrates on formal rules as against informal rules and processes. The yester model does not entail an account of the ways in which inputs are converted into outputs. Power could not rightly be a property of the external context of industrial relations system only, instead, power is considered central internally to the conduct of the parties themselves for the establishment and defense of rules and their application. It is a fact 272 that workers/union and management are involved in a power relationship within the enterprise and industry.

Dunlop did not pay sufficient attention to all facets of conflict in the industrial relations system, his emphasis being on conflict resolution ND not its generation. Why and how conflicts occur are likely to reveal more about industrial relations processes and institutions than

how their manifestations are sorted out (Toby,2000). The overall argument is that Dunlop misunderstood the Parson system analysis. 2. 6 Oxford school Since the oxford school does not necessarily have to constitute a self- contained approach, and has the elements of the systems theory, it should probably be viewed merely as a variant of the systems approach.

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