Bringing unions, management together (Web sight)

Lessons from the web on how business archenemies can work together

When employers and unions try to work collaboratively, it can be a real challenge to establish the trust, commitment and communication necessary. But by working co-operatively, HR and union representatives can create a truly positive partnership that results in a more productive and harmonious workplace. Below are several websites that examine ways for labour and employers to work together for the benefit of both sides.

Nature versus nurture

This Industry Week article, “Nature versus nurture,” looks at ways manufacturers can improve business performance and company morale. In one example, the International Specialty Products Corp. plant in Kentucky “credits its improved labour-management relationship and performance in part to its implementation of a high performance work organization (HPWO) partnership, a co-operative agreement reached between management and the IAMAW union (International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers) that promotes shared decision-making as the means to help a business grow and flourish.” The introduction of an HPWO “requires a tremendous willingness to change from both managers used to operating in a command-and-control type of environment and by union workers used to clocking in, doing their jobs and clocking out.” The article includes a 10-point “Key Components” section that highlights ways to create a successful partnership.

Unions a ‘force for good’

A United Kingdom study, recently completed by Personnel Today and the Trades Union Congress (TUC), lays out the results of a survey of more than 1,000 HR professionals and trade union reps. This article, “HR and unions’ relationship: Cordial relations,” focuses on the resulting report and finds the two groups “enjoy a largely positive, professional working relationship…though the union reps are slightly more critical of HR than vice-versa.” The survey found that “some 62 per cent of union reps say that their contacts in the HR department are pleasant/easy to deal with, compared with 69 per cent of HR professionals who say that their contacts at the union are pleasant/easy to deal with.” A TUC representative says, “Contrary to the stereotypical view of embattled union/management relations, the survey shows that most managers recognize unions are a force for good, that their reps are constructive, trained and understand their job and that reps provide a professional service, giving good value for employers as well as their members.”

Federal program provides funding

HRSDC’s site outlines information about the Labour-Management Partnerships Program (LMPP), designed to encourage effective labour-management relations. It provides funding assistance that supports unions and employers in jointly exploring new ways of working together. The program “supports initiatives aimed at promoting productive, innovative workplaces, fairer, more accessible workplaces and improved labour-management relations and understanding.” The site details eligibility, project assessment, the amount of financial support available and the application process.

Lessons from the steel industry

Research conducted by Ann Frost, an associate professor of organizational behaviour at the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business in London, Ont., gives examples of how labour was involved in the successful restructuring of the Canadian steel industry. This article, “Partners in change,” describes Frost’s examination of four large steel plants in Canada and the U.S. “When labour participated in the decisions surrounding workplace restructuring, not only were the decisions reached often technically better, it was more likely the changes would be successfully implemented because those affected by them saw them as legitimate and therefore acceptable,” Frost states.

Ann Macaulay is a freelance editor and regular contributor to Canadian HR Reporter. Her Web Sight column appears regularly in the CloseUp section.

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