Industrial Unrest

The term industrial unrest is used to describe activities undertaken by the labor and other working people when they feel grievances and protest against pay or conditions of their employment. Industrial unrest can also be defined as the total range of behaviours and attitudes that express opposition and divergent orientations between industrial owners and managers, on the one hand, and working people and their organisations on the other.

The unrest actions may include strikes, sit-ins, slowdowns or work-to-rule. Historically, riots also took place, such as the action taken by the Luddites during the Industrial Revolution, and other machine-wrecking outbreaks. Industrial unrest is caused by a clash between employers and employees. Generally, the causes of industrial conflict fall into categories such as working conditions, wage demands, work practices, political disputes and social concerns.

Different forms of unrest

Organised unrest:

– Collective in nature, involves groups of employees or trade unions

– Open (or overt), obvious to all that it is occurring

– takes the form of:

– Strikes

– Lockouts

– Overtime bans, working to rule, restrictions on output

– Political action

-Go slow

– Sit-in

Unorganised unrest:

– Individual in nature, only involves single employees

– Hidden (or covert), not obvious it is occurring

– takes the form of

– Absenteeism

– Labour turnover

– Low productivity

– Acts of indiscipline and sabotage

– Working without enthusiasm

Reasons behind industrial unrest

Management Views

Small number of “militant” shop stewards – abusing their position -Some workers had other sources of income & not committed to the corporation

-Unofficial disputes – increased significantly

-Overly dependent on third parties to solve I.R. problems

-Lack of consistency in interpretation & implementation of policy.

Employee Views

-Workers badly advised or not advised/consulted by shop stewards

-Some shop stewards & workers wanted to cause trouble rather than do their work

-Some managers were aggressive in their dealings with workers

-No future in the corporation due to intention to privatise

-Supervisors were not allowed to manage by their superiors – a lot of responsibility with no authority.

Conflict resolution mechanisms

There are five main styles of dealing with conflict that vary in their degrees of cooperativeness and assertiveness. It is argued that people typically have a preferred conflict resolution style. However it is also noted that different styles were most useful in different situations. The main styles are: Competitive: People who tend towards a competitive style take a firm stand, and know what they want. They usually operate from a position of power, drawn from things like position, rank, expertise, or persuasive ability.

This style can be useful when there is an emergency and a decision needs to be make fast; when the decision is unpopular; or when defending against someone who is trying to exploit the situation selfishly. However it can leave people feeling bruised, unsatisfied and resentful when used in less urgent situations. Collaborative: People tending towards a collaborative style try to meet the needs of all people involved. These people can be highly assertive but unlike the competitor, they cooperate effectively and acknowledge that everyone is important.

This style is useful when people need to bring together a variety of viewpoints to get the best solution; when there have been previous conflicts in the group; or when the situation is too important for a simple trade-off. Compromising: People who prefer a compromising style try to find a solution that will at least partially satisfy everyone.

Everyone is expected to give up something and the compromiser him- or she also expects to relinquish something. Compromise is useful when the cost of conflict is higher than the cost of losing ground, when equal strength opponents are at a standstill and when there is a deadline looming.

Accommodating: This style indicates a willingness to meet the needs of others at the expense of the person’s own needs. The accommodator often knows when to give in to others, but can be persuaded to surrender a position even when it is not warranted. This person is not assertive but is highly cooperative. Accommodation is appropriate when the issues matter more to the other party, when peace is more valuable than winning, or when people want to be in a position to collect on this “favor” people gave. However people may not return favors, and overall this approach is unlikely to give the best outcomes.

Avoiding: People tending towards this style seek to evade the conflict entirely. This style is typified by delegating controversial decisions, accepting default decisions, and not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings. It can be appropriate when victory is impossible, when the controversy is trivial, or when someone else is in a better position to solve the problem. However in many situations this is a weak and ineffective approach to take.

Dispute Resolution

In short, industrial relation situation in Bangladesh is not encouraging. But for the greater interest of the nation organizations should emphasis on sound industrial relation that can expedite national development. For a hopeful industrial revolution there is urgent need to fulfill some prerequisites like: a) Establishing excellent relationship, mutual trust and honor between employers and workers at highest level;

b) Avoidance of industrial unrest, establishment and maintaining harmonious labor management relationship; c) increasing employees’ efficiency;d) ensuring highest productivity through concerted efforts of employers andemployees;

e) providing possible better wages, safe work place, good work environment, and sufficient welfare for workers, which in term will surely increase productivity; and

f) Establishing social security system and safety net for the employees.