"In every workplace, there exists an invisible frontier of control, reducing some of the formal powers of the employer: a frontier which is defined and redefined in a continuous process of pressure and counter pressure, conflict and accommodation, overt and tacit struggle" (Hyman, 1975, p26). Discuss the responses of employees, unions and employers to this frontier of control', drawing on both historical and contemporary examples to illustrate your answer. Synopsis
The aim of this paper is to discuss the invisible frontier of control, it would be analysed in terms of its impact on unions and employers in industrial conflict. The paper will mainly focus on the Workplace Relations Act 1996. This Act would be used to explain the effects it had on the shift of control using relevant case study examples. This paper is divided into four parts, explanation of conflict in the workplace, the invisible frontier of control, and the impact of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 with case study examples.
It has been argued that industrial conflict is inevitable in most work environments. Although conflict can be damaging for the workplace, it is important that we understand it wholly by examining all its manifestations. According to Kornhauser (et el 1954, pp.12-13) to better understand industrial strife means examining the total range of behaviour and attitudes that express opposition and divergent orientations between industrial owners on the one hand and working people and their organisations on the other (Deery et el 2005 p307). To get a deeper understanding of industrial conflict the concept of the invisible frontier of control would be analysed in terms of its impact on unions and employers in industrial conflict.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics defines Industrial conflict or dispute as a withdrawal from work by a group of employees, a refusal by an employer or a number of employers to permit some or all of their employees to work, each withdrawal or refusal being made in order to enforce a demand, resist a demand or to express a grievance (Deery et el 20005 p 311). Conflicts occur in the workplace when there is a dispute between the employer's objectives and the employee's change of working conditions. Within this context, Hyman has identified three crucial changes within industrial conflict they are income distribution', job security' and managerial control'. As management's objective is towards productivity and organisational efficiencies, it is easy to perceive that the above three crucial changes will provoke industrial conflict. In response to this challenge employee's join trade unions. As discussed in Deery (et el 2005 p187) the role of unions acts as the collective voice/ institutional response face'. This means that the aspect of union activity allows individuals to collectively communicate their concerns to management in an effort to maintain the employment relationship. However in times of conflict unions might resort to strikes. Intentionally set up work bans such as absenteeism, low morale, material waste, slackness and inefficiency. This has the affect of shifting the frontier of control on the employee's side, therefore applying pressure on employers to heed to union demands. The frontier of control is basically the onus of power. Originally it sits on management's side as they regulate the workplace and dictate working conditions. Historically as time passes it shifts towards employees as trade unions are formed, allowing unions to voice their opinions on working conditions. The frontier of control is constantly shifting as time passes. As there are many factors which influence its shift, one of the main factors is the role of the State and regulations such as The Workplace Relations Act 1996. These factors would be discussed in detailed with relevant examples of historical cases of industrial dispute being analysed.
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