Good essay on the relationship between employers and unions


Some unions state that organizations do not compensate their workers fairly, or that the working conditions of these organizations are less than desirable. Likewise, some employers state that labor unions interfere with management decision and the relationship between managers and workers. This paper aims at explaining strategies that organizations and unions can implement so that they can create and maintain conducive working environments between them. It is through working together of these two bodies that an organization can effectively accomplish its goals.

The Role of Management in an Organization

Effective management involves employees’ motivation, efficient problem-solving and coming up with efficient ways the organization can utilize to accomplish its objectives. The role of management describes the jobs managers do. Although management has many roles, Fayol (1949) states that management main functions are Planning, controlling, leading, organizing, and staffing.
Planning is the main role of management. Management has to set objectives and determine suitable ways to accomplish them (Fayol, 1949). Planning requires managers and leaders be good decision-makers, understand the challenges facing the organization, forecast economic conditions, their customers, competitors, and future business. Planning usually involves strategic management where the planner analyzes competitive opportunities, threats, weaknesses as well as the organization strengths, and determine how best to compete in that environment.
It is the responsibility of management to organize the organization. Organizing involves controlling the overall structure of the organization. A sound organizational structure defines how the management directs various activities such as supervision, coordination, and task allocation and assists the organization in obtaining its goals for future growth (Pugh, 1990). Management has to identify different roles and assign the right number of employees and manage the way various duties have to be carried. This action involves departmentalization, which involves clustering jobs into departments based on customers, functions, geography, and products.
The next role of management is leading. It is where managers and leaders take time to connect with their employees on interpersonal levels. This action involves motivating subordinates, inspiring, effective use of power, communicating effectively, and encouraging employees towards higher productive levels. Not all managers are leaders. Employees find themselves following the directions of their manager because it is mandatory for them to do so. However, the same employees follow the directions of their leader willingly or voluntarily for they trust and believe in his leadership. It is through leadership that employees perform to the expected standards.
Management is also responsible for measuring the current achievement of the organization against the established objectives, a function called controlling. Controlling involves the establishment of performance standards, the comparison between the actual performance and the standards, and providing a corrective course of action. These standards usually involve achievement of monetary goals like profits and minimizing costs. This function does not involve behavioral or manipulative control. In other words, it is unprofessional for managers to control values, emotions, attitudes, or personalities of their subordinates. The aim of managerial control is to ensure the set standards are met, identifying factors of deviation from successful accomplishment (International Labor Organization, 2009).

The Role of Union in an Organization

A labor union is made up of organized group of workers who work together to ensure they have good working conditions. Unions help workers to collectively meet and discuss or negotiate with management over the issues that are affecting them in the workplace. Unions give workers a stronger voice while working with management, and make the organization more prosperous, stronger, and a better place to work.
In most countries, all workers regardless of their ages are free to join a union. It is through unions that workers have the right to impact wages, workplace health and safety, benefits, work hours, and other work-related issues. The benefits stated above include vacation and sick leave, health insurance, retirement plans, and tuition reimbursement. Other benefits and protections of workers through unions include minimum wage, an eight-hour day and weekends, social security payments, and overtime pay.
Labor unions or workers unions ensure that worker or employee in the workplace is treated fairly and equally and without discrimination or favoritism. Unions protect workers against unjust dismissal through collective bargaining agreements. This action ensures that union employees are not fired without ‘ just cause’. There are many cases where nonunion workers are dismissed for very minor mistakes or no mistakes at all since they are considered “ at-will” employees. In addition, unions present a strong voice to the policy makers, lawmakers and the government, thus ensuring their grievances are heard.
Reports indicate that union members take home more salary by about 30 percent than their nonunion counterparts. In addition, workers in labor unions are more likely to benefit from pension and health benefits, which might not be present in the nonunion employees. Only a small number of employers understand that their companies much benefit when workers form unions. It is the responsibility of the law and governments to ensure that employers do not harass, threaten, or intimidate workers when they try to form unions.

Organization implementations that focus on creating and maintaining conducive working relationships with Unions

– The organization should involve Unions its Managerial Role
Discouraging the involvement of unions in the implementation of the managerial role is the main factor that can lead to misunderstandings between management and the unions. It remains essential for the employees to be aware of the organization objectives, performance and initiatives that it intends to undertake. Studies indicate that treating unions and employees as separate from the organization does not only result to an adversarial relationship between the bodies involved, but also lowers employees morale and motivation (Mordehai, 2010). It is only through working together between the employees, management, and the unions that the organization can benefit from this competitive advantage.
Factors such as financial crises, rapid organization change in terms of leadership and technology, and government regulations may interfere with the organization operations. These factors may in turn interfere with the benefits and protections that the workers expect from the organization. For example, the organization may fail to fulfill its agreements with its workers such as compensation increment, health benefits, and insurance. If unions and workers are not involved in the decision-making process, it becomes hard for them to understand what the organization is going through. This action may then result to employees’ strike since to them the organization does not look after their welfares. Active participations for all workers in decision-making make them feel valued and respected, thus creating loyalty, trust, and understanding between them. This involvement ensures that the union does not make unnecessary demands until the organization recovers (Mordehai, 2010).
– The Organization should facilitate effective communication
Effective communication between unions and management is a basic prerequisite for any organization to attain its goals. Work coordination is impossible without communication and the organization may eventually collapse. Effective communication acts as a thread that holds parts of the organization together. Breaking this thread makes the organization activities cease to exist. In the absence of effective communication, management makes and implements decisions concerning its workers without first consulting them. Likewise, the unions make their decisions and demands for the welfare of workers and against the government (Gill, 2009). The results are threats from the management and ignorance on the raised demands. This action may eventually result to actions such as strikes and huge employees’ turnovers, thus leading to decrease in productivity and unnecessary losses.
The organization should initiate communication through establishing regular meetings between the unions and management, where both bodies have a chance to discuss problems affecting them. This action would help management understand the action the union is planning to undertake for the welfare of the workers and define ways to solving the raising problems before it is too late (Mordehai, 2010). There are instances that a face-to-face communication may be difficult, especially in big organizations that have many branches in different places. In such cases, it is good for the management to establish clear lines of communications such as a common email where unions and workers would be free to raise their grievances. The organization should then ensure it address the raise issues such as working environment, skill development, compensation and others without delay.

Actions unions should implement to create and maintain conducive working relationships with management

– Presenting reasonable and attainable grievances depending on the organization Capabilities
There have been concerns from various organizations where unions make unreasonable and more than hard to implement demands. Although the organization may try as much as possible to address these grievances, this action may burden the organization and affect its future investments. Instead of solving a problem, these financial demands may force management to minimize the number of employees, thus creating unemployment and overworking the rest of employees. Before the unions raise their grievances, they have first to consider the consequences they can pose in the long run (Gill, 2009). It is important for the union to consider organization welfare and other involved stakeholders before making demands. It is through protecting the welfare of the organization (by ensuring that the organization makes profits through minimizing bills) that the union can protect workers. Put in mind that increasing the organization bills beyond reasonable due to the increased number of demands may make the organization unable to operate. This action may then result to the closure of the organization, making everyone involved to lose their jobs. Little is better than never.
– Like management, Unions should promote Communication
Unless unions promote effective communication between them and management, maintaining conducive working environments would be history even if management tries to make communication possible. Research proves that the lack of adequate means for management to reach union representatives is one of the main factors that contribute to an adversarial relationship between them (Gill, 2009). This action means that the Unions must establish a clear channel of communication for management to be able to consult the unions before implementing a decision that has effects on the workers.
It is through this channel that employees can understand the actions their organization intends to implement and can participate in their implementation through their unions. Since it is difficult for management to communicate to each and every worker, a two-way and smooth communication between the unions’ representatives and management would ensure that employee demand are effectively heard. The result is an improvement in employees’ morale, since even if it can be hard for the management to implement some of the grievances at that moment; at least the management is aware of these demands. Employees appreciate good communication coming from management. If the management is unable to communicate with the union due to communication barriers, management may implement its decision independently, making the workers reiterate if they are affected by these decisions.


Since management and union are opposite sides of the same coin, both of them seem to watch and correct each in the workplace. The role of management includes Planning, controlling, leading, organizing and staffing. Unions are responsible for looking after the welfare of workers. Unions and Management should apply strategies that aim at bringing both together for organization to effectively accomplish their goals as described in the above points.


Fayol, H. (1949). General and Industrial Administration. London: Sir Issac Pitman & Sons, Ltd.
Gill C. (2009). Union Impact on the effective Adoption of High Performance Work Practices. Journal of Human Resource Management. 19, 39- 50
International Labor Organization (2009). Global Capital Strategies and Trade Union Responses. International Journal of Labor Research.
Mordehai M. (2010). Reframing the Representation Debate. Industrial and Labor Relations Review 63 (3), 367- 383
Pugh, D. S., ed. (1990). Organization Theory: Selected Readings. Harmondsworth: Penguin.