Industrial disputes may take any form and may arise due to economic and non-economic issues. The types of industrial disputes may be concerned with the terms that govern relationships between an employer and employee. In other instances, the disputes may result from the application and interpretation of contracts and agreements. The major types of industrial disputes are, Interest disputes, employee grievances, unfair labour practices and recognition disputes.
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What is an Industrial Dispute
An industrial dispute can be defined as a difference of opinion, a disagreement or friction between management and workers or amongst employees. It arises from conflict between an employer and his/her employees where a trade union or a 3rd party representing the interests of employees is the mediator. These disputes normally result in strikes, demonstrations, lockouts and boycotts. In many instances, strikes or demonstrations occur when the grievance is connected to fundamental injustices. These could be poor working conditions, unfair treatment of workers or discrimination. Often times demonstrations and boycotts turn violent. The major types of industrial disputes are summarised below.
Interest disputes are the major types of industrial disputes. These conflicts are concerned with economic and non-economic gains which include wages, working conditions, job security, working hours and benefits.
Due to the rise in living standards, prices of basic food and commodities most industrial workers’ real incomes decline at a rapid rate. As a result, workers may feel unsatisfied with their wages. Business owners take advantage of the workers poor bargaining power and seek to pay them the lowest possible wage whilst the workers strive for the highest possible bid. As a result, wage related types of industrial disputes arise.
- Working conditions
The working conditions in many industries are poor and unhygienic, in extreme cases, dangerous. In some developing and underdeveloped countries there is no sufficient water, heating and lighting in the factories. Consequently, such factors contribute to interest disputes.
- Job security
Types of industrial disputes related to job security also arise when workers are unfairly dismissed or are never given permanent contracts.
- Working hours (Long working hours have contributed to types of industrial disputes that are related to workers’ interests)
- Benefits (Limited employee benefits such as paid leave and medical aid may cause grievances between the employer and employee)
Recognition disputes often arise when a trade union representing the workers of an organisation is not recognised by a firm’s management. These types of industrial disputes occur when a firm’s management blocks its workers from joining a trade union or completely refuses to acknowledge its existence. Refusing to recognise a trade union often occurs when negotiations take place. A labour union may approach the employer with certain demands requested by the workers stating that the union was assigned by the workers to speak for them. The employer may refuse to accept the demands of the union and fail to acknowledge the union’s authority to represent the workers. If the labour law in that country does not address such controversies the parties are left on their own.
Grievance Disputes or Rights Disputes
Another common type of industrial dispute is a grievance dispute. This occurs when conflicts arise between management and workers or amongst employees. Such disputes can be related to promotions, working hours, and in some cases working conditions. Also, the non-fulfilment of rights based on differences in the application and interpretation of laws can result in disputes. Grievance disputes also arise from contract negotiations and different ways of interpreting a contract.
- Contract negotiations
Some types of industrial disputes that cause grievances between the workers and their employers result from contract negotiations. Contracts determine the basic relationship between these two parties. Such disputes can arise from the initial negotiation of a contract or the renewal of the agreement. In many cases the disputes may be concerned with the provisions of the contract that are subject to reopening or renegotiation. For example, some contracts may have in them clauses that allow wages to be renegotiated after a certain period, within the timeframe of the contract based on certain changes in the cost of living. In such instances, contract negotiation disputes may arise between the employer and employee when each party’s needs are not met.
- Contract interpretation
Different interpretations of the contents, provisions and clauses of a contract by the employers and workers result in disputes. However, such disputes can be easily addressed in court or by an arbitrator.
Unfair Labour Practices
Unfair labour practice disputes are other types of disputes that arise from the unfair treatment of workers. Such conflicts are concerned with discrimination, blocking workers from joining labour unions and employing new workers during strikes.
Termination of employment Disputes
There are some cases where the termination of contracts for various reasons result in conflict. Termination of employment types of industrial disputes arise when a worker has been dismissed unfairly.
Disputes between Workers Union and workers
Disputes between workers and the unions that represent them may arise, but on rare occasions. Such disputes may occur when there is a conflict of interest between the labour unions and the workers. This may be caused by a lack of understanding, especially on the workers part, regarding the conformity of the membership and the implementation of the rights and obligations of a trade union.
When any type of industrial dispute occurs, it is advisable to settle the issue internally. If the issues cannot be resolved between the workers and employers with the assistance of a trade union other ways such as strikes can be resorted to. However, resorting to strikes can be costly to workers and employers. It is always best to prevent any type of labour dispute. Carefully evaluating wages and salaries and keeping them in line with current market trends will avoid conflicts. Providing a clean, furnished well equipped working station and ensuring that all employees perform their expected job duties will go a long way in maintaining peace. In addition, encouraging managers to have a positive attitude towards employees also helps. However, due to the differences in people’s mindsets, attitudes and values, completely avoiding conflicts in an organisation is impossible. In the event that disputes cannot be solved internally a peaceful negotiation with a 3rd partly is less costly.