Definition of Industrial Relations

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The study if industrial relations like some other fields of study present a complex set of definitions of which none is universally agreed as the most appropriate definition. Some authors advocate for the definition of the scope of industrial relations in narrow terms in order to grasp its concepts, while others prefer a broader view of a network of social relationships in the industry.

Flanders (1965:10) articulates that the study of industrial relations may be described as a study of institutions of job regulation. Job regulation is defined as the process of controlling job content through the creation of rules. There can be unilateral job regulation, by management or by workers/unions, or joint job regulation through collective bargaining. Job content may be affected by collective agreements both inside and outside the factory, by legislation, by works rules and wages structures.

According to Blyton and Turnbull (1998), the Oxford School made up of Flanders, Clegg and Fox reiterate that a system of rules makes up the industrial relations system. These rules appear in different guises, in legislation and statutory orders, in trade union regulations, in collective agreements, in arbitration awards, in social conventions, in managerial decisions and accepted custom and practice. The subject deals with certain regulated or institutionalised relationships in industry and rules is the only generic term that can be given to the various instruments of regulation.

Flanders stresses that not all relationships associated with the organisation of the industry are relevant. The only aspect of the business enterprise with which industrial relations is concerned is the employment aspect, the relationship between the enterprise and its employees and among those employees themselves. The relationships are identified by placing them in a legal setting.

Rules that regulate industrial relations are subdivided in two, which are procedural clauses and substantive...
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