Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice

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Monday, October 29, 2012

What is Industrial Relations (Part II) - Evolution of Labor Relations and Industrial Relations

    Knowing of evolution of labor relations and industrial relations, are important to understand what is the industrial relations and how it has been practiced in the past. Industrial revolution changed the nature of work, forms of work organization and nature of production was bringing together many craftsmen under one roof. This is referred to as the stage of cooperation the craftsman. For various reasons, they were deprived of their tools and brought together by the factory owner under one roof and introduced new tools and techniques to them.

    The next stage was the stage of manufacture. Although there were small manufacturers creating small things, mankind went to build large things like machineries in large scales. Businessmen, investors and inventors as well as who was willing to spend their money saved from generations, established factories to manufacture many things. This is when work tasks are broken down or fragmentized and division of labor is introduced. The factory owners attempt to increase productivity by removing some of the skills or the craft work by breaking down work in to simpler steps. The craftsman is still in charge of the work and has skill but his skill is being eroded and simplified. The artisan is now being transformed in to a worked and this changes the social relation between the factory owner and the worker. Some factory owners used their skilled workers to train and establish new things in the factories, and others who were really not trained well were appointed to simple steps. 

    Two processes began to take place at this stage are, the first is de-qualification where the skills of the artisan are broken down. This takes away control of the work from the worker, and allowed the owner to establish whatever he needs. The second is hyper-qualification of a few individuals who in turn are in charge of systematically fragmenting the work of the masses, as mentioned in above paragraph. This makes authorized leaders among the workers. The way this happened is not more different from  the master and servant modal. The only difference is worker allowed leaving factory any time and he should agree to what he gets from the factory owner as salary. Salary was defined by owner and working conditions were also decided by him. Efficiency and the quality was the concerned of factory owners. 
The process mentioned in above paragraph was also involved in adapting the tools of the trade to a narrow focus so as to increase efficiency. Individual workers and owners thought about the tools that makes the process easy. Craft workers and their apprentice were placed under a single roof which was the formation of the factory. Skilled work was slowly broken down allowing mass production, then large factories established such as Ford Motor Company. Thousands of people moved from villages and rural areas to the cities in search of employment. People uprooted from their traditional way of life and traditional forms of work. Creation of new class or people: proletariat or working class. Society becomes divided between the working class on the one hand and owners and managers on the other hand. Human beings now have to sell their labor power in order to survive. This marked the beginning of the era of mass employment and soon, mass unemployment. Mass unemployment - This happened because some economies collapsed in some of regions. (Less productivity of agricultural products may be the reason for that.) In the area of work we find emergence of new patterns in work organizations.

    Emergence of the assembly line and dull repetitive work-1914 Henry Ford introduced the assembly line (via conveyer belts) Ford fixed the worker at one place and made the object of work or product to flow. This created more control over the labor, and also allowed control over the rate of production. (This made workers unhappy at the beginning but soon after the production increased, Henry Ford doubled the salary he paid to workers, and they were able to buy cars of their own after 2-3 months. This attracted the workers more towards Ford factory. Even today they follow this mechanism and satisfy workers by high wages.)

     We also see the emergence of Taylorism or Scientific Management. Taylorism or Scientific Management is a theory of management that analyzed and synthesized workflows. Its main objective is improving economic efficiency, especially labor productivity. It is one of the earliest attempts to apply science to the engineering of processes and to management. Taylor followed many trials to measure the amount of work done by a worker in a given period of time. His aim was to scientifically determine the best way of performing a task.

    Taylor attempt to do two things:

1.    Increase the amount of work within a specific period- productivity
2.  Simplify work by breaking it down in to simpler part- deskilling (Breaking work for many activities)

In order to achieve his tasks Taylor conducted a series of time and motion studies.

    Reaction to Taylor’s work came in the form of the Human Relations Movement. Taylor was criticized for being over-rational and dehumanizing. In between 1927-1932 a series of experiments were conducted at the Hawthorne Works of the Western Electric Company in Chicago (Successor AT&T Technologies, USA). (Hawthorne effect, a term used as early as 1950 by Elton Mayo and Fritz Roethlisberger, is that changes in participants' behavior during the course of a study and Mayo and Roethlisberger believed it is related only to the special social situation and social treatment the participants received.) These experiments established that work conditions and monetary incentives did not have a direct relation to output and behavior. It found that informal work organization and work groups had an effect on output and behavior. Elton Mayo who conducted the experiments argued that the worker should be seen as a human and social being. He promoted the idea of training managers and administrations in social skills. His idea was not only the task would be done, but also to maintain the relationship. This was the beginning of the Human Relations Schools. (HRS) The HRS was criticized for misunderstanding the causes and nature of industrial conflict. The HRS was also criticized for ignoring trade unions and industrial relations. Studies into industrial relations grew in 1948 the Institute of Industrial Relation Research was founded in the USA.

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