Studies & Degrees in Industrial Relations

Choose where you would like to study Industrial Relations:

ArgentinaCanadaIndiaIrelandPhilippinesSpainThe United KingdomThe United States

The labor force is a very important segment of society. In fact, most governments even have a labor department or ministry to address labor-related concerns. In England, the Labour Party enjoys good political following because they always campaign for the betterment of labor conditions. In America, to get elected as president, eloquence can only get them so far as American voters are very discerning. Americans would always vote for those who would promise to improve healthcare, less taxes, more tax deductions in a realistic way. To get the presidency, more or less they have to woo the working class.

Browsing through the pages of history books, it could be seen that most revolutions or civil unrests started out from disgruntled laborers. The French revolution started because the common French people can no longer stand the trappings of monarchy as they would not like to live their lives in eternal labor while the king lives lavishly. The democratic structure in America, which is the envy of all freedom loving people, was paved by the civil war that started from abolition of slave movements, and thank God, the emancipationists won.

Fast forward to the present, labor rights have been given the needed attention it had been clamoring for in the last few centuries. In fact, there is even a field of study called Industrial Relations dedicated solely to foster the harmonious relationship of employers and employees. Thanks to the development of this field, no employee, from janitor to a manager, can be summarily dismissed without a valid ground for termination. Industrial Relations paved the way for promulgation of certain laws that would ensure protection of employees. By law, in most civilized countries, companies are required to enroll their employees to social security benefits. In highly developed countries, paid leaves, salary loan and hospitalization assistance are standard employee benefits resulting to less incidence of labor strikes and violence. However, third world countries tell a different story. Industrial Relations Specialists from third world countries are busier than their Western counterparts. Most local employers tend to discourage unions and other similar types of organizations. Some even employ children to hard physical labor. Although, there are laws in place that protect employee rights in some third world countries, however, bribery is just so prevalent that the pleas of the victims of unfair labor practices just fall on deaf ears.

Usually, Industrial Relations are practiced by the human resources department (HRD) of every company. They act as a bridge between management and employees. Companies with highly developed human resources departments usually act as if they are separate from the company. HRDs, from management’s point of view, makes sure to hire employees that would qualify for the job description applicants are applying for, while from the employees point of view, makes sure that company is complying with laws and regulations of the labor department/ministry of a particular country. When there are disputes between management and unions, the HRD would initially act as intermediary to avert a full-blown stoppage of company operations.

When things really are that out of hand and the matter is beyond the power of the company’s Industrial Relations experts, then third party negotiators are called in. These third party negotiators are usually government officials or lawyers.

Indeed, Industrial Relations have gone a long way and have greatly improved relations between employers and employees in the last decade but experts claim they have only scratched the tip of the iceberg. More opportunities are opening up as companies are becoming more accepting to the roles of labor unions. Courses are available at almost any famous universities and colleges.

Job positions for Industrial Relations:

CBA Negotiator

Every 2 or 3 years, management and union leaders of companies sit down with their respective Collective Bargaining Agreement (or CBA) Negotiators, who are usually lawyers and whose expertise lie on their in-depth knowledge of labor laws, to discuss employee benefits until the next collective bargaining agreement comes again. In a negotiating panel, both parties usually draft their own proposals to be presented to the other party. Each side’s CBA lawyers would scrutinize, peruse, and interpret every word and clause that the other side’s party presented. This scrutinizing, perusing and interpreting every word and clause is the reason CBA lawyers are paid top dollar. Before anyone is advised to sign anything, the CBA lawyers would first give a go signal that all the fine prints are indeed fine and okay. Normally, there would be point of contentions and there will be some points that would be readily acceptable. In order, not to keep on reviewing all the terms on the proposal, those readily accepted terms are usually considered good and those contestable points would be the focus of discussion when both parties meet again for the next round of talks.

It should be understood that CBA lawyers are only in an advisory capacity. They can only tell their clients what are permissible and what are not permissible according to the law. It is always the clients who would have the last say whether the terms are acceptable for them. For example, the United Workers of ABC Steel Company doesn’t agree to the proposal of management to give a 5% increase in wages when they know that management can very well afford a 12% increase. So they tell their lawyer that they would not accept the proposal and wants 12%. Next round of negotiations, management gave a counter proposal of 7% but hospitalization coverage would be double up to 100% of present coverage. Still the workers would not budge because they really want something they can feel every month and not only when they fell sick.

So the union leaders tell their lawyers to tell management that 10% and 50% increase in hospitalization coverage would be acceptable. The lawyers would go back and forth until there is room for discussions. Discussions will only stop if there is no more room for negotiations like both parties gave their final offers and it’s a take it or leave it situation or when both parties have come to a resolution and have met halfway on each others terms. Collective bargaining agreements could take months or sometimes years before a resolution could be reached, so when a CBA gets resolved effortlessly and smoothly, usually, CBA lawyers are given big bonuses. Speaking of bonuses, sometimes, during the course of negotiations, more likely on the side of management, for example the initial proposal of the union is a 15% wage increase. Some lawyers are given bonuses if the workers accepts a percentage lower than what was originally asked by the union.

CBA negotiating is indeed lucrative as companies who have unions are usually those with large capitalizations. Opportunities are never scarce as more and more unions and workers associations are being formed. Those eyeing to become CBA lawyers can take up Industrial Relations courses as their pre-law course before enrolling in a proper law school.

Human Resources Manager

The field of Industrial Relations has been, perhaps, taken to a whole new level when companies have a dedicated Human Resources Department. And, normally, the human resources department is headed by a Human Resources Manager (HR Manager).

Basically, a Human Resource Manager would be the overall responsible for staffing the office with the right and possibly the best people who would fit the job description of vacant positions in a company. Along with recruitment is devising of exams that would, more or less, tell the strengths and weaknesses of potential applicants. If they’re looking for accountants, perhaps they can include accounting terms or problems that would confirm that the applicants know their basics. However, the HR Department is not entirely devoted to giving exams to job applicants, they are also responsible for coming up with training activities that would aim to develop their employees on how to further their skills and eventually become better employees. Like, for example, bank tellers are not merely there in the frontline to say “Hi” and “Good morning” and then facilitate deposit and withdrawal transactions. To become better tellers, HR would recommend sending their tellers to seminars like counterfeit verification, power dressing, how to calm angry customers and anything that would come in handy in going about their jobs.

Normally, all employees’ performance gets evaluated. These evaluations are important because the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) where promotions or salary increases would depend will be determined as a result of these evaluations. Generally, all recommendations for personnel movement, like promotions and transfers would result from Human Resource Manager’s recommendation. These KPIs is one of the products of developments in the field of Industrial Relations. KPIs somehow remove discrimination especially when choosing someone for promotion. For example, the position of Sales Manager is up for grabs and the company decided to promote one from the ranks rather than hire from outside. Naturally, the HR Manager would be asked for a recommendation by the CEO or COO. Gone are the days when one gets to be promoted because their buddies with the HR Manager or because somebody is related to the big boss. In modern corporate setting, first consideration is always performance. So when the HR Manager review potential candidates, naturally, he would look at those people who had been consistently meeting sales quota, those bringing in the number of most new clients per month, doing sales calls most often and other things that would measure a performance applicable to the sales department. When all things got weighed in, the HR Manager then sends a recommendation to the Board of Directors of whoever approves that Mr. Jones is the right man because he’s a man who brings results and knows almost all the big accounts that were closed by him. When announcement day comes no one would be surprised because a man’s record would always speak for himself.

Among other things, HR Managers are responsible for the implementation of existing rules and policy and to carry out punishments for offending employees. However, perhaps, the hardest thing for HR Managers to do is giving out the pink slip. Normally, it is the HR Managers who personally talk to the people who are about to get axed.