Non-union management styles

Management styles in a non-union setting are classified into four categories, according to McLoughlin and Gourlay (1994), namely traditional HRM, benevolent autocracy, opportunistic and strategic HRM. Traditional HRM is not outwardly anti-union but considers trade unions as being unnecessary to employees, who are otherwise managed effectively as individuals. Here, the policies reiterate profit sharing, performance-related pay and a stress on training and development. Benevolent autocracy is common in small businesses.

Here the employer’s positions and power is clearly demonstrated in his relationship with employees, however employees due to their skills, are not entirely dependent on the employer. The absence of unions here may be more attributed to the fact that there was no formal stand ever towards trade unions. In organizations labelled as opportunists, a higher level of collectivisation is evident. Here trade unions may be Union involvement in workplace learning 14 recognised partially.

Alternatively, the management might have de-recognised trade unions and replaced it with a works council in an effort to compensate. Under opportunistic management styles, there is very likely to be fragmented personnel policies. Under the strategic HRM, high levels of collectivisation including recognition of trade unions might be permitted as long as these are perceived to be contributing positively to the growth of the organization. When the circumstances changes, de-recognition would be seen as being appropriate.

Another way of classifying a non-union establishment management is suggested by Guest and Hoque. The management is classified on the basis of the presence of a human resource strategy, and the nature of that policy and practice. Model or good non-union establishments are those that have a clean HRM strategy and incorporate several techniques, associating employee commitment and involvement. Establishments that have clear strategies but fail to implement them; providing very little workers’ rights, represent the dark side of non-union establishments.

However, the third type of management in non-union establishments, is the lucky type which do not have a HRM strategy, but adopt several innovative practices either by copying or by following the trend. This classification however ignores the individual–collective aspect. It also fails to recognize the possibility of collective employment relations with-in the non-union perspective. Union involvement in workplace learning 15 Management styles of non-union organisations may also be understood from the organisations’ size perspective.

For small firms, a paternalism style, fraternalism style or an autocratic style may be adopted. In paternalism, employers hire on a long-term basis and a mutual sense of trust is forged. Under fraternalism, the owner-managers also work alongside their employees like in painting and hairdressing. In the autocratic style, employees are generally vulnerable and are in a poor bargaining position such as in hotel and catering. The WERS 1998 data findings for small businesses showed that very few managers favoured the formation of union in their workplaces.

Unions were recognised in only 12% of the small businesses and 74% of small businesses had no union recognition or any mechanism for listening to employees. The pay was also set unilaterally by the management. Although the small businesses had informal procedures, there was a high level of job satisfaction. Among the large non-union firms providing good pay and work conditions, the strategy is that these would remove all likelihood for unionisation. However, if the management takes advantage of the absence of a union and begins offering less favourable pay than that under a union; then workers begin to join a union.

Therefore to keep avoiding the union, large companies need to have a union avoidance policy. The policy ensures benefits and demands, commitments on the part of the management, to keep off the union. These organisations should offer high wages and benefits, have good complaints procedures, job security and maintain good communications. In return for these, the organisations can expect to promote a unitary culture, have an individual reward system and keep radicals low.

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