Industrial Unrest on the Rise
In a recent report from the Macquarie University it’s been suggested that a lack of industrial relations knowledge has apparently contributed to the number of industrial disputes currently underway. In July alone we saw industrial unrest in Qantas, Veolia Transport and Rio Tinto. We have also seen the WA Police union negotiate a very healthy pay deal.
What this shows is that disputes are well and truly on the agenda! Why is this all happening you may ask? Well it appears that there is a lack of relevant IR and HR courses being taught and/or there is a lack of IR and HR practitioners who have attained sufficient skills in these disciplines. It seems that more and more organisations are referring their disputes to industrial lawyers hence they become responsible for the whole process; however a lot of these matters could and should be settled or addressed [internally] before lawyers are employed and of course the matter becomes long and drawn out.
Ideally a majority of disputes can be resolved or at least managed [internally] but it seems that during the period of ‘WorkChoices’ organisations didn’t really have the capacity to and/or provide for the effective management of disputes at the workplace. Coincidently [some] universities removed their IR courses from their list of core management programs.
We are seeing now that with the changes to the industrial landscape and therefore the advent of more open discussions with Unions a better focus on IR practices is required. HR practitioners seem to be heading back to formal studies to help them with managing their industrial disputes in a more effective manner.
Notwithstanding, HR practitioners should develop appropriate strategies that include an understanding of the theoretical nature of industrial relations. Some of those skills include developing effective disputes resolution procedures which will help with understanding not only what motivates the parties as well as enabling them reaching a compromise that is acceptable to both parties… this of course takes a lot of expertise and experience.
HR practitioners must also be aware that employees will have support throughout disputes from [for example] Unions, who too are trained and well versed in industrial relations, so HR practitioners too must be knowledgeable in industrial relations. This of course can alleviate matters before they get out of control. HR practitioners are now being considered as business partners and so need to understand what disputes can do to the operation and/or productivity of the business.
There will always be industrial disputes in the workplace, however the trick for the HR practitioner is to properly manage the [potential] negative impacts that can occur as a result of such disputes.