Critically Appraise the Relations in a Non Union Firm

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The purpose of this essay is to evaluate the employment relations in a non – union Firm. The essay will start with a definition of non – union firm, attention will be given to characterise these firms. This will be followed by a review of the labels given to these firms due to their employment practices used. There will be comparisons of small and large companies and attention will be drawn to the general management styles adopted in these companies. Finally, this will lead to a conclusion and summary of the critiques noted throughout the essay.

A non union firm is defined by Heery and Noon (2001) as an organisation where a trade union is not recognised by management for individual representation, joint consultation, or collective bargaining. They suggest many non-union companies tend to have poorer employment conditions as opposed to unionised companies. Furthermore McNabb & Whitfield (2000) categorise small non – union firms as ones that tend to portray poor wages and conditions.

At the risk of comparing between companies between different companies, O’Neil (2006) reported on health and safety concerns between union and union firms and was suggested by the Louisville Courier Journal newspaper in USA small non union mines generally are paid less and they do not have unions who demand the mines to comply with safety regulations. This supports McNabb and Whitfield (2000) in terms of poor conditions, again this is a comparison between a company in the USA and the UK. Charlwood & Terry (2007) state non-union representation had an insignificant impact on wage dispersion, but they do not categorise between small, medium and large firms.

According to the WERS 2004 survey the majority of employees in small firms reported, managers were good or very good at keeping employees informed regarding changes to the running of the organization, changes in staffing and changes to their job (DTI, 2005). Therefore the assumption is that small firms reported have open communication and a greater ‘mutual trust’ and this is supported as the WERS reports that managers and non union representatives have a greater mutual trust than between managers and union representatives. The survey also showed solitary working was most likely to occur, where mutual trust was present. Yet, it was uncommon in small and medium unionised firms for managers to negotiate with trade unions over non-pay terms and conditions such as working hours. Although the latter is uncommon for negotiation between managers and trade unions, the WERS reported that there was a greater mutual trust between managers and non union representatives. The WERS 2004 found employees tended to work more than 48 hours a week with greater frequency in the private sector, and in workplaces without a recognised union, again this could be due to greater mutual trust.

Small and medium sized organisations were generally labelled as ‘black holes’ or ‘bleak houses’ (Guest & Conway, 1999; and Sisson, 1993). The meaning is essentially the same. ‘Bleak houses’ are characterised by insecure employment agreements, lack of formal procedures, little of no employee involvement, and a high rate of dismissals. To re-iterate, they are characterised by their harsh hire and fire employment practices (Sisson, 1993). Whereas ‘black holes’ are defined by the absence of a trade union or human resources practices (Guest & Conway, 1999). Guest and Conway further reported ‘black hole organisations’ are likely to be found in the private sector rather than the public sector including Construction, Food & Drink, Retailing and Hotel & Leisure and that it was HRM practices that had a major influence on worker attitudes and behaviours rather than trade union membership.

Marchington and Wilkinson (2005) suggested much of the publications in the 1980’s, stated it was well known large numbers of small firms that did not recognise or deal with trade unions were generally labelled as ‘traditionalist’, ‘Unitarist’ or...
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