The Concept of Intra-Union Conflict

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The concept of intra-union conflict is not much different from that of intra-group or intra-organizational conflict. However, before we delve into that argument, it is essential that we consider an authoritative view of the subject matter from the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The ILO (2006) states that ‘Conflicts within the trade union movement’ is “A matter involving no dispute between the government and the trade unions, but which involves a conflict within the trade union movement itself, is the sole responsibility of the parties themselves.” This definition implies that trade unions like most other social organizations are prone to internal disputes and struggles. This is so because, as an ‘organization of workers’, unions ultimately exhibit the same group dynamics as that of any other social group in the society. To appreciate this stance, let’s consider a couple of definitions of both a trade union as well as an organization from some authors and web resources:

Sydney and Beatrice Webb (1897) defined a trade union as “a continuous association of wage earners for the purpose of maintaining and improving the conditions of their working lives”. Otobo (2005) explains that this definition among other things highlights the relative permanency of organization. Also, according to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, “A trade union (or labor/labour union) is an organization of workers who have banded together to achieve common goals like better working conditions ...” Wikipedia Further defines an organization as “…a social arrangement which pursues collective goals, controls its own performance, and has a boundary separating it from its environment. ...” By linking the above definitions, one may see that a union as a combination of workers for the welfare of workers is basically nothing more than an organization and as such, expected to exhibit common organizational traits including of course, intra-group conflict.

Having established a connection between trade unions and their organizational nature, we may now look at some views on the subject matter, i.e. intra-group conflict, but before then, what is conflict?

According to Krish (2009) “Conflict is defined as the existence of, or the perception of existence of, resource competition, opposing interests and differences of opinion and incompatible values… While conflict in itself, by default, arises with differences, it is debatable if organizational conflict is good or bad or neutral from the organization’s perspective. It is a fact that conflict, if left unregulated, can spiral out of control and lead to unwarranted consequences.” He goes on to explain that “…Conflict can be Functional (good), Dysfunctional (bad) or Quasi-functional (could be good or bad, depending on circumstances)’’. Similarly, in an exposition of Gareth R. Jones and Jennifer M. George's book, "Contemporary Management.", Consador (2010) explains that Organizational conflict is the discord that arises when the "goals, interests or values of different individuals or groups are incompatible and those individuals or groups block or thwart one another's attempts to achieve their objective," Jones and George mention four types of organizational conflict--interpersonal conflict (between individuals of the organization), intragroup conflict (within an internal group, team or department, typically involving more than one person within a group), intergroup conflict (conflict that arises across different organizations) and interorganizational conflict (conflict that arises across different organizations) Intra-union conflict

Krish (2009) states that “Conflict, when occurs within a group, is termed “Intra-Group conflict”. Even within one organization or team, conflict can arise from individual differences or ambitions as mentioned earlier; or from rivalry between sub-groups or factions. All leaders and members of the organization need to be alert to group dynamics that can...
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