Review Questions Topic 2: The Nature of the Employment Relationship 1. Why is the employment relationship interdependent? In order to tap the creative and productive powers of workers, employers cannot treat them as any other market commodity. Employees can always bargain with their compliance, commitment and effort. Hence, to some extent, employers must seek a cooperative relationship with their workers in order to gain their consent to managerial directives. Employees, on the other hand, are also faced with the pressure of contradictions. Although resisting subordination and exploitation, workers also have an interest in the continuing viability of the organization that employs them and in their individual position within the organization. Herein lies the interdependent nature of the employment relationship. Whereas the employers hold the balance of power by virtue of their ownership of capital, ultimately it is the employees who perform the work tasks. As a result, the employment relationship cannot be viewed as a simple dialectic of (management) control and (worker) resistance. Rather, it involves a ‘fractured interplay of control, consensus and bargaining’. 2. What is managerial prerogative and how far should it extend? The term managerial prerogative refers to the right of managers or business owners to make unilateral decisions about all aspects of their business without interference from government, workers or unions. It should extend with legal prohibition on bargaining over issues such as hiring, promotion, job allocation, firing, demotion, introduction of new technology, occupational health and safety and management communication and consultation with employees. 3. What is the difference between overt and covert forms of industrial conflict? Give some examples of each. Overt (open) manifestations tend to be collective and organized and hence observable to all. Convert (concealed) forms are more likely to be individual and unorganized and are therefore less visible to the public eye. Overt conflicts include strikes, lockouts, picketing, threats of plants closures, outsourcing of tasks while convert conflicts includes absenteeism, labour turnover, sabotage, restriction of work effort, strict disciplinary cods linked to threats of dismissal, etc. 4. How do the unitarist pluralist and radical frames of reference differ in their assumptions about the nature of the employment relationship? Unitarist perspective is the viewpoint that holds the employment relationship is grounded in mutual cooperation and a harmony of interest between employers and employees. Trade unions are regarded as competitors for employee commitment and loyalty to organizational goals. Pluralist perspective is the viewpoint that regards conflict as inevitable because of the competing interest of employers and employees. Trade unions are the legitimate representative of employee interests and have the right to challenge management prerogative and the state is an impartial protector of the public interest. Radical/Marxist perspective is the viewpoint that regards industrial conflict as an aspect of class conflict in wider society. Unions are an outcome of the power imbalance inherent in the employment relationship, whereas the State actively seeks to protect the interests of capital. Page 1
*5. What is the systems approach and what are its strengths and weaknesses? How applicable is it to Singapore? Unitarist system Strength: Highlights the common interests shared by all in the organization even if it is just the mutual survival of the enterprise. Weakness: Pluralists and radicials argue unitarists’ view of conflict too narrow. Unitarism too prescriptive and unrealistic. A mere ideology designed to legitimize managerial power. Pluralist system Strength: Seen to be common-sense, moderate position. Weakness: Unitarist say it is a reflection of them and use conflictual mindset. Marxist criticizes assumption of balance of power and says pluralism is...
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