Industrial Relations

The subject area of Industrial Relations is one of the most discussed specialist areas of organisational and national economic management(Gunnigle, Flood, Morley and Turner 1998). The public elevation of the subject is primarily reasoned to its headline making capacity,when in the struggle of industrial action, mass redundancy and wage bargaining. This events often become materialised, in which attracts extensive media coverage and high public interest, for example the nurses' dispute and The Garda Siochana 'blue flu' strike. Industrial Relations does not easily lend itself to definition. However, the main focus of the subject is on the employment relationship of about one and a half million employees in the Republic, across all sectors and entities. These include the national or local government, private companies extending from multinational subsidiaries to local corner shops semi-state companies single domestic employers and co-operatives spanning both union and nonunion enterprises.(Gunnigle, Mcmahon and fitzgerald.1998). Even the term industrial relations itself holds associations with the traditional unionised 'blue collar' working environment in the manufacturing sector while the term employee relations is more in line with the non unionised white collar service sector. As With most subjects, a narrow conception does not allow for complete understanding. Therefore the subject of Industrial Relations can be best understood and interpreted in the wider context of historical, political, social and economic elements, in which will be discussed in the document, and have shaped the regulation of working lives and have been major influences which have impacted on the significant changes in the Irish Industrial Relations landscape over the last 30 years.

3.0 The Industrial Relations Act 1990

The introduction of The Industrial relations act 1990 was certainly a major influence which impacted significant changes in the irish industrial relation landscape. The provisions of the Act can be divided broadly between trade union law and industrial relations law which are the reformation of trade dispute law, the introduction of pre-strike secret ballot rules, the restriction of the use of injunctions in trade disputes, the facilitation of the further rationalisation of the trade union movement and also to provide for the establishment of a new Labour Relations Commission
with overall responsibility for the promotion of good industrial relations, changes in the procedure for referral of disputes to the Labour Court, amended procedures governing the establishment and operation of Joint Labour Committees improvement of the arrangements for the enforcement of Employment Regulations Orders and Registered Employment Agreements. The purpose of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990 was to put in place an improved framework for the conduct of industrial relations and for the resolution of trade disputes with the aim of maintaining a stable and orderly industrial relations climate.(DJEI,2013).

3.1 The Labour Court

The labour court is the main institution in ireland for the resolution of trade disputes. The labour court was established firstly by the industrial relations act of 1946, with the main provisions of the act 'to make further and better provisions for promoting harmonious relations between workers and their employers disputes'(Industrial relations act 1946). the role of the labour court changed significantly when the industrial relations act 1990 was introduced, as it passed many of its functions to the labour relations commission, which was established under the act. The main role of the labour court in the irish industrial relations scene was now to investigate and make recommendations on cases referred to it by parties in dispute.These are normally situations where parties have failed to reach a decision or compromise. The labour courts referral procedure requires that in the first stage the parties in dispute are obliged to avail of the service of conciliation provided by the labour relations commission. If the issue is still unresolved prior to availing of this service, it may then be referred to the Labour court for investigation.

Before the reformation of the Industrial Relations act 1990 the number of disputes referred to the labour court throughout 1980's referrals were at their peak level when it issued 1045 recommendations in 1983. the court itself attributed this enormous increase in to a general over dependence on the court and in many cases failure of the parties to conduct full and meaningful negotiations at local level. Therefore the reformation of the labour courts functions in the industrial relations act 1990 significantly impacted on the industrial relations landscape over the past 30 years.the number of recommendations issued in the 1990's . Murphy (1997) attributes this to fewer referrals to the court because of the more vigorous policy towards the settlement of disputes at conciliation stages.

4.0 Trade Unions

'Trade unions have traditionally been seen as the most effective means of countering employer power and achieving satisfactory pay and working conditions. their role is well established in the irish context with legislation dealing with the legal recognition of trade unions dating back to pre- interdependence days'.(Gunnigle, McMahon and Fitzgerald). Trade unions have gained the status as the best mechanism for workers,of both staff associations and individual bargaining and to government and employer organisations on a broader political level. Trade Unions main aim is to unite workers with common interests while seeking to define those interests, express them and safeguard them thorough their intereactions.By joining trade unions employees provide themselfs with collective means to redress twith the collective bargaining power that is often thought to exist between employees and employers. Webbs(1920) defined trade union as 'a continuous association of wage earners with the objective of improving or maintaining conditions of employment'.

4.1 Union Density

Patterns in Union density have brought about considerable change in the irish industrial landscape. From the trends in union membership in the 1990's we find that the figures from DUES data series indicate an overall increase in union membership but a significant downward trend in union density. Table 4.1 shows that Union membership rose from 440,000 in 1988 to over 504,00 in 1995. this increase represents the fact that there were more people in employment than ever before. however if we consider trends in union density the diagram is not so positive for trade unions. it shows that although union memberships are increasing, trade union density is falling. there was a fall of 9% in union density between 1980 and 1998. Roche and Ashmore (1998). Since the 1980s we have seen the development of broad ranging centralised agreements between the social partners. the model facilitates a high level of union influence on economic and social policy decisions. The rise in Human Resource Management practices began to induce a substitution of membership. 'Fiorito et al (1987) argues that HRM practices are often part of attempts by employers to either substitute for or avoid trade unions.'
Gunnigle, McMahon and Fitzpatrick(1998). in evaluating implications for industrial relations, the adoption of HRM practices presents an explicit challenge to collective bargaining and trade unions. an area of major importance in impact of HRM and industrial relations is the issue of trade union recognition. In Ireland the past two decades have seen a huge growth in non-union approaches. it is likely that a lot of firms adopted a union subscription strategy involving the adoption of HRM practices designed to eliminate employee needs for collection representation, by handling grievances promptly.

5.0 Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining is the process through which agreement on pay, working conditions, procedures and other negotiable is reached between unionised employees and management. collective bargaining represents a mechanism through which divergent interest in organisations a and the interests of employees and employers are reconciled through an orderly process involving negotiating and compromising.
since the introduction of collective bargaining in 1941 it has been described as the central institution of behavior between union employees and employers in ireland the irish system is characterised essentially as a voluntaristic system as there are no legal obligations to practice collective bargaining. the employers engage in collective bargaining on pay or any other issue at negotiable level. the system is described as being binding in 'honor only'.

The development of the institution of collective bargaining in ireland can be traced with reference to a number of distinct temporal spans such as;
- The late nineteenth century to 1941
-1941- 1946
- the wage rounds from 1946-69
-the sequence of national wage agreements from 1970-80
- the period of decentralised bargaining between 1982 and 1987; and
- the most current period of national bargaining which was initiated by the programme for national recovery in 1987 and continues under partnership 2000 for inclusion, employment and competitiveness

5.1 Partnership 2000 for Inclusion, Employment and Competitiveness
The Partnership 2000 for Inclusion, Employment and Competitiveness agreement provided significant change to the irish industrial landscape. Partnership 2000 provided for pay increases of up to 9.5 percent over a thirty nine month period(Gunnigle, McMahon and Fitzgerald). the basic deal involves phased basis increases.

Partnership 2000 was described by Gunnigle, McMahon and Fitzpatrick as the most ambitious national agreement to date. it continues the established pattern of bargained national agreements for socio-economic policies but extends this pattern a lot. it sets out for the creation of a wider social contract. Von prondzynski (1998) partnership 2000 as representing a change of direction when compared with other national agreements since 1987. he views the agreement as not only focused on the economic competitiveness, in which he finds the respective order of the title is significant. 'Von Prondzynski suggests that the emphasis has shifted from containing costs and combating inflation to protecting livelihoods and promoting employment and argues that in respect the corporatist tendencies of the irish industrial relations system have been given a significant boost after ambiguities of the previous agreements'. Gunnigle, McMahon and Fitzgerald(1998)

6.0 HRM and Industrial Relations

Human resource management refers to the development of a strategic corporate approach to workforce management (Beer et al.,1984). As sparrow and hiltrop specifically note, while HRM as a generic concept has been around for many years, it was the movement to more closely align workforce management and strategic decision making which differentiated HRM from traditional personnel management.Gunnigle, McMahon and Fitzgerald(1998).

Industrial Relations practice in ireland has always been associated with a strong diversified orientation. as such, management approaches were seen as reactive, dealing with ranges of problems of the workforce management. this emphasis is generally linked to a historical preference for a collectivist approach to management-industrial relations involving collective bargaining with trade unions ( roche,1990). Gunnigle, McMahon and Fitzgerald also noted that, since the early 1980's Industrial Relations at enterprise level has undergone a considerable amount of change. In particular an increasing focus on the utilisation of HRM approaches by foreign-owned, non-union organisations. ' The emergence human resource management is probably the most important development in contemporary literature. In particular, we find the contention that HRM-based approaches are increasingly being adopted by employers and significantly impacting key aspects of enterprise level industrial relations, such as argued decline in the importance of collective bargaining and the growth of non- union approaches'.

7.0 References

- Industrial Relations In Ireland, Theory and Practice, Second Edition. 1998
Patrick Gunnigle, Gerard McMahon and Gerard Fitzgerald

-Industrial Relations In Ireland, Contemporary Issues and Developments 1989 Revised Edition
Department of Industrial Relations, Faculty of Commerce, University College Dublin.

- Continuity & Change in Irish Employee Relations 1998
Patrick Gunnigle, Patrick Flood, Michael Morley, Thomas Turner

- Irish Industrial Relations in Practice
Thomas V. Murphy & William K. Roche

-The Industrial Relations Act 1990 Explanatory Booklet
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

-The Industrial Relations Act 1946
The Irish Statute Book

Source: Essay UK -

Not what you're looking for?


About this resource

This Economics essay was submitted to us by a student in order to help you with your studies.


No ratings yet!

Word count:

This page has approximately words.



If you use part of this page in your own work, you need to provide a citation, as follows:

Essay UK, Industrial Relations. Available from: <> [21-02-19].

More information:

If you are the original author of this content and no longer wish to have it published on our website then please click on the link below to request removal:

Essay and dissertation help