State and industrial relations


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The relationship between the State and Industrial Relations

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State and industrial relations

  1. 1. State andIndustrial Relations
  2. 2. The modern state and itsorigins  It will almost be impossible to understand in any meaningful sense the nature of industrial relations and trade unionism in any country without first looking at the role played by the state or government.
  3. 3. The modern state and itsorigins  The reason for this seems simple enough: society has to be governed or managed by a group of people for the citizens to go about their own businesses and activities safely and systematically.
  4. 4. The modern state and itsorigins  The problem of maintaining any social order is constant, and unavoidable, and remains intertwined with the rise and development of the modern state.
  5. 5. The modern state and itsorigins  It is not merely by accident that a few persons or a relatively large number of persons find themselves in positions of authority and exercise power over others.
  6. 6. The modern state and itsorigins  Under feudalism, those in position of power claimed that God more or less made life that way.  In that period, it was not very difficult to identify the ‘State’ and its origins for, as King Louis XIV of France was reported to have said in French, “I am the State”: those who owned everything, including the power of life and death over peasants, slaves, serfs, etc., literally embodied the State in their person and activities.
  7. 7. The modern state and itsorigins  Specific territories and persons and property therein were expressly owned by specific individuals (king, emperor, prince, etc.) or groups of individuals and as such the fortunes and governance of these rose and fell according to the plight or circumstances of those who owned them.  The right to life and other rights and liberties were granted as a favour.
  8. 8. The modern state and itsorigins - Hegel  Hegel, in his discussion of the philosophy of the State, conceived public administration as a BRIDGE between the STATE and the CIVIL SOCIETY.
  9. 9. The modern state and itsorigins - Hegel  The CIVIL SOCIETY comprised the professions, the corporations which represented the various PARTICULAR INTERESTS, with the State representing the GENERAL INTEREST.
  10. 10. The modern state and itsorigins - Hegel  Between the two, the BUREAUCRACY was the medium through which this passage from the PARTICULAR to the GENERAL INTEREST became possible.
  11. 11. The modern state and itsorigins - Hegel  Hegel, in effect, expected there to be ‘opposition’ between the PARTICULAR interests of the corporations (that represented the interests of organised capital, their owners and the professions) and the COMMON interest represented by the state.
  12. 12. The modern state and itsorigins - Hegel  In this social order, political franchise was very limited, extended only to the aristocracy, the emergent wealthy groups (landed or rentier, mercantile and industrial capitalists), their corporations and organised professional associations.
  13. 13. The modern state and itsorigins - Hegel  In the struggle for domination of society, Hegel imagined that through the bureaucracy and other sets of activities, the State would somehow stand for the protection of general interests.
  14. 14. The modern state and itsorigins - Karl Marx  Karl Marx accepted Hegel’s tripartite structure of society made up of the state, bureaucracy (in terms of state administration) and civil society, but disagreed with Hegel over their composition and the role each one of them plays in a capitalist society.
  15. 15. The modern state and itsorigins - Karl Marx  According to Marx, this “opposition” offered by the administration/bureaucracy to the State as envisaged by Hegel does not exist because the State does not represent the general or common interest but the particular interests of the dominant social class, a social class that itself is a part of the civil society.
  16. 16. The modern state and itsorigins - Karl Marx  Indeed, ‘the executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie,’ Marx and Engels had maintained instead.
  17. 17. The modern state and itsorigins - Karl Marx  Marx’s central argument is that all human society through history is class-dominated, the nature and character of the dominant social class depending on the epoch. And, as such, the state (however composed) has historically always served class (particular and privileged) interests and not general interests.
  18. 18. The modern state and itsorigins - Karl Marx  Thus, ‘the elaboration of state institutions has been closely associated with the development of antagonistic class interests, and their functions have always included the reinforcement of the system of class rule enshrined in the existing social order by suppressing acts of resistance and revolt by subordinate classes.’
  19. 19. The modern state and itsorigins - Karl Marx  From this viewpoint,  a) bureaucracy constitutes a very specific and particular social group,  b) that the state administration/bureaucracy is not a social class, and along with the State itself, is an instrument by which the dominant class exercises its domination over society.
  20. 20. The modern state and itsorigins - Karl Marx  In this way, to a certain degree, the future and the interests of bureaucracy are closely linked to those of the dominant class and the State. Its justification and existence depends on them.  In capitalist society, the real task of bureaucracy is to impose on the whole of society an order of things which consolidates and perpetuates class division and domination.
  21. 21. The modern state and itsorigins - Karl Marx  At the same time, its other task is to mask this domination by interposing itself as the general interest smoke screen between exploiters and exploited.
  22. 22. The modern state and itsorigins - Karl Marx  But, on the other hand, as bureaucracy is not an integral part of the capitalist class, it has a certain autonomy which makes conflict with its masters possible. This conflict cannot go beyond certain limits, which are always determined by the existing forces and relations of production.
  23. 23. The modern state and itsorigins - Karl Marx  Briefly, from the above, it follows that bureaucracy does not occupy an organic position in the social structure, as it is not directly linked with the process of production. Its existence and development has a transient and parasitic character. Its main task is to maintain the status quo and the privileges of its masters.
  24. 24. The modern state and itsorigins - Karl Marx  From this point of view bureaucracy and further bureaucratisation become unavoidable and indispensable in a society divided into social classes.  Indeed the political system of such a society increasingly requires further and stricter control for the maintenance of the divisions and inequalities among its various groups.
  25. 25. Current arguments  The debate, since Marx, over the nature of the state and thus of modern capitalist society has not subsided, a great many attempts directed more at confusing the issues rather shedding more light. Certainly, most of the attempts have been driven by the desire to ‘disprove’ Marx over  a) the existence of two social classes in society (by the same token, the degree of exploitation in society);  b) the partisan role of the state; and  c) the conception of a communist or classless society.
  26. 26. Current arguments - nature ofthe state  On the composition of the state and its apparatuses, the generalised picture of non- Marxian position is as follows. The modern state has as its core the ‘government’, its other arms being the main civil service, legislature (where they exist), local government, judiciary, public utilities and parastatals, law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and the armed forces.
  27. 27. Current arguments - Nature ofthe State  The group of people who make up the government carry out the functions we call ‘governance’, and the government consequently has the constitutional responsibility to pass laws to regulate the conduct of citizens and institutions in the country.
  28. 28. Current arguments - Nature ofthe State  It is because this general role is so important to the survival of a country and of the dominant classes that how a government comes into being is not left to chance and the processes and procedures for composing it are usually spelt out.
  29. 29. Current arguments - Nature ofthe State  The existence of a government means that the citizens temporarily give up some of their own power or sovereignty, through their elected representatives, as it is not possible for everyone to physically and directly participate in decision-making.
  30. 30. Current arguments - Nature ofthe State  And it is through representatives and by periodically changing them that citizens can indirectly contribute to decisions affecting their lives. This process is both delegation of power and political democracy.
  31. 31. Current arguments- Nature of the state  This is also why it is not possible to justify an authoritarian regime or a dictatorship in the name of the people or citizens: dictatorships seize the power or sovereignty of the people and which may or may not be used (overwhelmingly, the latter) to further the general interest or good.
  32. 32. Current arguments - Natureof the State  For modern liberal governments to function effectively and legitimately, they have to be first elected according to laid down rules and procedures (usually contained in a constitution), and when elected make rules or laws. For these rules or laws to be implemented and to regulate the conduct of all, institutions are established, and this is what accounts for the existence of the civil service, local government, the judiciary, police, customs, immigration, armed forces, and other public utilities.
  33. 33. Current arguments - Nature ofthe State  Even unelected governments, such as military regimes and territories ruled by absolute monarchs/kings, also make laws and develop the above-mentioned institutions to implement them. Where such citizens accept and believe such rulers have a right to make laws without consulting or involving them, then such rulers may not feel the need to justify or explain their laws and actions.
  34. 34. Current arguments - Nature ofthe State  Nowadays, however, even authoritarian and military regimes find that they have to explain and defend some of the laws they decree into existence and many of their decisions and actions are contested by their own citizens and the international community in a new age of individual and fundamental human rights after the collapse of the Soviet Union and so-called East European countries.
  35. 35. Current arguments - Nature ofthe State  Anyway, once a government is in place, it claims the role of regulating the conduct of everyone inside the country, and since all interests groups in society have some sectional or private interests to protect, the dislike and contestation of some government policies are bound to occur any time a specific law or policy negatively affects such sectional interests.
  36. 36. Current arguments - Nature ofthe State  It should also be borne in mind that although a government may have the power to make laws, those laws that do not conform to laid down procedures in their enactment or violate those rights and privileges protected by the constitution and are universally recognised and embodied in the various conventions and declarations of international institutions (e.g. the United Nations Organisation - UNO) can be declared unlawful by the courts. It is to avoid this that some military dictatorships introduce so-called ‘ouster clauses’ that prevent the law courts from even examining such laws.
  37. 37. Current arguments - Nature ofthe State  Wherever there are private and public employers and individuals are physically and legally free to secure paid employment, workers exist. So also would a private employment contract be created, whether verbal or written. Those relations arising from the employment situation, including attempts by the private employer, public employer and workers to sort out differences over terms of employment and other issues that may arise from time to time often involve the state.
  38. 38. Current arguments - Nature ofthe State  The state itself is both an employer and the institution that makes laws to regulate the activities of everyone else, including those of private employers and workers and their organisations.
  39. 39. Current arguments - Nature ofthe State  These two interests, that of employer and ostensible regulator, can and do conflict and sometimes influence the kind of laws passed to regulate the three parties in industrial relations.
  40. 40. Current arguments - Nature ofthe State  So, the right of the state to regulate or intervene seems to be widely accepted in principle by all parties in industry, but how far, where and how frequently are often the problem. How far, where and how frequently the state intervenes can hardly be separated from the nature of the state itself.
  41. 41. Role of the State The logic underlying orthodox explanations dictates that the state has to be an arbiter. Not particularly concerned with the historical evolution of state’s regulatory capacity, the focus and emphasis in such explanations is on the integrative function of regulation - a snapshot of the present or status quo. Clearly then, the state operates at three levels: the international, the national level and then at the micro-level (organisations).
  42. 42. Role of the State At the international level, the state disappears from the analysis, to be replaced by such doctrines as ‘comparative advantage’ in international trade and ‘market forces’. Transnational companies have global operations and make profits by being ‘more competitive’ and ‘beating the opposition’.
  43. 43. Role of the State Here the state is supposed to protect ‘national interests’ through a judicious mix of policies: import-export controls, tax regime, investments in ‘sensitive sectors of the economy’, diplomatic pressures on foreign governments to ‘open up trade’, and so forth.
  44. 44. Role of the State For the national and micro levels, because of the regulatory and sometimes mediatory roles of the government, some have strenuously argued and struggled to give the impression that the state is in principle ‘neutral’: that it is merely a question of taking case by case and examining state’s role.
  45. 45. Role of the State That, sometimes, government’s decision might favour the employer, and at other times the worker and his/her organisation. The examples of Factories Act and similar legislation that seek to establish minimum health and other standards at the work place may be seen as favouring workers.
  46. 46. Role of the State On the question of the state attempting to establish health and safety standards at the work-place representing an even- handed approach, such a position assumes the meeting of such standards (physical work space, lighting, noise levels, dust levels, protective clothing against chemicals, gas, etc.) to be added cost that employers can do without.
  47. 47. Bias of the system  In addition to the above, private industry requires investments to make profits, and ensuing profits are supposedly ploughed back as further investments for more profits. In this process, more jobs might be created and government can derive some revenue from taxes and as duties.
  48. 48. Bias of the system  Many government’s attempt to create ‘a favourable climate for investments’ by lowering corporate and production taxes, engaging in periodic downward review of import tariffs, keeping a lid on wages and salaries, etc., aside from the fact that most laws are geared to the protection of private property can only but favour managements and investors.
  49. 49. Bias of the system  A government that is dedicated to the protection of private property and minimising disruptions to production and seeking the elimination of ‘threats’ to investments and investors, and ‘ensure a buoyant economy’, CANNOT BE NEUTRAL in industrial relations.  Quite simply, there is no ‘economic growth’ and ‘buoyant economy’ without profit-making private companies in this context.
  50. 50. Bias of the system  Trade unions, striking workers, protesting students, all those seeking improvements in their terms of employment commonly tend to constitute a ‘threat’ of a sort before the eyes of most state functionaries - much more so under military regimes that cannot stomach any opposition or protests.
  51. 51. Bias of the system  In addition, where many members of the ruling group and elite of the state system (civil service, parastatal, local governments, judiciary, police, armed forces, intelligence agencies, etc.) are investors and own companies (results of privatisation, etc.), hostile labour legislation is to be expected, and harassment of workers and other vocal groups in society by the whole range of law enforcement agencies routine.
  52. 52. Bias of the system  It is not convincing to portray the mediating role of the state in conflict situations as neutral. The institutions and processes of mediation, conciliation and arbitration are in reality manipulable and contestable, especially as the state often sets the limits within which they operate.
  53. 53. Bias of the system  For example, decision-making processes in business organisations are autocratically arrived at, yet a group of workers reacting to some of such decisions that affect them adversely may be required by law to meet several conditions, including balloting before going on strike, to determine whether decision to strike was democratically arrived at!
  54. 54. Bias of the system  A minister or employer might take his time about taking a dispute to arbitration, and eventually when done the pace at which proceedings progress is subjectively determined by the arbitrators), and so on.
  55. 55. Bias of the system  Or, when a government passes legislation to block the bank accounts of a trade union whose members are on strike, or a court orders same, or legislation or court order prevents trade unions from using their funds ‘for political purposes’.
  56. 56. Bias of the system  There is usually no commensurate legislation nor court order preventing employers and businesses from doing same: indeed, most political parties (where they exist) compete for their support and patronage!  The areas most frequently subject to state regulation are usually
  57. 57. Main areas of State’s directinvolvement  employment and manpower development;  wages and salaries,  union government and administration;  collective bargaining; and  industrial conflict.
  58. 58. Context of state involvement  According to the pluralist model, all groups in society, whether economic, socio-cultural, or political, organise to meet and protect the interests of their members.
  59. 59. Context of state involvement  In respect of industrial relations, for example, most private employers and investors, even when they recognise the notion of social responsibility, hardly see their operations in terms of ‘national interest’. They see instead opportunities, markets, sources of finance and raw materials, and other resources and constraints that can facilitate or hinder their operations within the given environment, while their activities at the same time serving to shape the environment itself.
  60. 60. Context of state involvement  Thus, by definition, their interests are partisan or sectional and private employers largely concern themselves with complying with relevant laws and agreements reached with workers and their trades unions - that is where unions exist.
  61. 61. Context of state involvement  The wages, fringe benefits, and other welfare schemes constitute a cost to them, and official policies and trades union activities directed at increasing these would habitually be resisted. But such resistance, under certain circumstances, might in fact be in everyone’s interest if the passing on of such costs to the consumer would sharply increase the rate of inflation and reduce general purchasing power.
  62. 62. Context of state involvement  The same goes for governments and politicians. What this suggests, among other possibilities, is that government’s economic and social policies may not necessarily be in the “national interest” or affect a larger number of citizens positively all of the time.
  63. 63. Context of state involvement  Those who control any government (or political parties that form such governments) have their own agendas which they try to achieve within the law and constitution, if they have any respect left at all for both.
  64. 64. Context of state involvement  Where governments, like military regimes everywhere, have ouster clauses that prevent organisations, citizens and the law courts themselves from challenging their own laws and decisions, any talk of some decision being in the national interest must be closely examined and questioned, especially where the government says there is no alternative to its policies and affected parties or the public have no way of changing such a policy.
  65. 65. Context of state involvement  This alone, if nothing else, is why democratically elected governments are far superior to the most benevolent of military regimes: namely, that policies are debated and majority vote settles the choice of policy, and when such a policy has far too many negative consequences, protests and more debates arise and the policy is modified in due course.
  66. 66. Context of state involvement  So, what constitutes normal policy making process under democratic government is often presented by spokesmen of military regimes as ‘opposing the government’, ‘subversive of the government’s plan’, ‘sabotage’ and similar labels.
  67. 67. Context of state involvement  The phrase ‘national interest’ has become an indispensable legitimising slogan in government’s propaganda machinery everywhere, even in places where those in government make it clear that they wish to hang on to power against the wishes or preferences of the public or electorate.
  68. 68. Union government andadministration  Many governments target the capacity of unions to organize by trying to influence who can be members, who can stand for elections and how often union elections can be held, and so forth.
  69. 69. Union government andadministration  These are complemented by verbal and media attacks on union officials, freezing some bank accounts, and undermining the legitimacy of union executives especially in periods of conflict.
  70. 70. Union government andadministration  While in some countries the Registrar of Trade Unions (or equivalent) contributes his own part by withdrawing official recognition by de-registration,  recognising an unpopular faction of a union,
  71. 71. Union government andadministration  denying some unions permission to amalgamate or federate, extending recognition to only one central labour organisation,  insisting on voluntary check-off system,  balloting before strikes are embarked upon; and  refusing to accept some union accounts when submitted.
  72. 72. Union government andadministration  In any case, all governments attempt to influence organised labour everywhere, and for a variety of reasons may choose to give grants or subventions to trades unions or the central labour organisation.
  73. 73. Union government andadministration  Where a section of the labour movement is itself involved in the government of the day (as happens in Europe and Britain where some political parties and many trade unions have joint committees and are inextricably institutionally intertwined), in such a plural situation of political parties and trades unions subscribing to various and differing ideological positions and thus different social agendas, it all then boils down to rivalry and competition for the minds of the electorate.
  74. 74. Union government andadministration  Official policies perceived to be inimical to the interests of wage earners or to those of a section of the labour movement are then opposed by those affected.
  75. 75. Union government andadministration  However, the situation is contrastingly different in Africa, Asia and South America where most governments, civilian and military, appear to be routinely anti-unions and, aside from direct physical attack on union leaders and some workers, legislation and decrees which severely restrict the capacity of unions to function effectively are put in place.
  76. 76. Union government andadministration  The notion of plurality of interests and the democratic right of persons to organise and protect such interests do not seem to enjoy wide acceptance among those who control the levers of power in these places.
  77. 77. Collective bargaining andwage bargain  The state is also heavily involved in regulating collective bargaining. The state as an employer attempts to determine public sector terms through various mechanisms, depending on whether such public sector employees enjoy the legal right to organise or not.
  78. 78. Collective bargaining andwage bargain  Where they do not (e.g., Essential Services in several countries), quite often terms of employment may be determined through the establishment and functioning of wages and salaries commissions, or committee or wages board, or some such ad hoc or permanent institution.
  79. 79. Collective bargaining andwage bargain  There is usually a ministry or official body concerned with industrial relations and labour matters and some main legislation or code which provides a legal framework for collective bargaining.
  80. 80. Collective bargaining andwage bargain  Of course, developments in the domestic and international economy that serve to constrain the state and impact on collective bargaining processes cannot be overlooked.
  81. 81. Collective bargaining andwage bargain  Since the mid-1980s the dramatically deteriorating standard of living in the face of stagflation and decreasing capacity utilisation in many industries has presented problems of sorts for all parties in industry.
  82. 82. Collective bargaining andwage bargain  Not all the problems in the economy and industry have been caused by world-wide economic depression.  The rate of inflation,  monetary and fiscal policy,  autonomy and effectiveness of monetary institutions and authorities,
  83. 83. Collective bargaining andwage bargain  extra-budgetary expenditures and budget deficits,  official housing, health and educational policies,  elite-generated political crises and tensions,  sourcing of raw materials,  pricing policies of trading and manufacturing industries,  activities of middlemen and of market-women and men, just to mention a few, all impact upon the situation.
  84. 84. Wage bargain institutions  Wage bargain institutions in the public sector have tended to take institutionalised forms as wages commissions/committees, wages boards or councils.
  85. 85. Wage bargain institutions  Where workers therein are not organised into trades unions, such bodies are legally empowered to negotiate salaries, fringe benefits and general conditions of service for the employees so affected.
  86. 86. Wage bargain institutions   In the so-called non-unionised private sector, special tribunals or commissions might be established to investigate conditions in some of the establishments or industries.
  87. 87. Wage bargain institutions  What is left of the private sector is presumed to be subject to collective attempts by management and workers at continuously modifying terms of employment.
  88. 88. Wage bargain institutions  But, over and above all, many governments adopt some variant of incomes and policy guidelines, in spite of periodic calls for completely deregulated economies or dominance of ‘market forces’, to put an upper ceiling on percentage increases in wages and salaries.
  89. 89. Wage bargain institutions  Wage bargaining processes are thus restricted to the range provided under such economic policies, percentages that often are below the rate of inflation.
  90. 90. Wage bargain institutions  Wage settlements under such incomes policy guidelines remain unsatisfactory even before they are reached, leaving a residue of bitterness and discontentment.
  91. 91. Wage bargain institutions  In many countries, especially in Africa, Asia and South America, such wage bargain institutions in the public sector are rendered moribund and ineffectual, the government preferring the method of administrative fiat.
  92. 92. Industrial conflict  Either through pre-emptive moves or in reaction to generalised disquiet and pockets of protests alongside adverse press coverage, the government would appoint ad hoc inter- ministerial, bilateral and tripartite committees largely to defuse the situation by addressing themselves with much fanfare to particular issues.
  93. 93. Industrial conflict  Many governments routinely claim the maintenance of ‘peace and order’ as one of their main functions, and are particularly upset over industrial conflicts that disrupt production and services.
  94. 94. Industrial conflict  Quite often, they use intelligence organisations, police and soldiers to break strikes, either physically or by detaining union officials and some strikers, physical harassment and intimidation, or sending some strikers to tribunals/courts for trial.
  95. 95. Industrial conflict  The government also regulates industrial conflict through some decrees or laws and institutions. Mediation, conciliation and arbitration services are offered by some organs of the state, quite often a ministry of employment or labour or some bodies enjoying a measure of institutional autonomy.
  96. 96. Industrial conflict  Despite the tripartite composition of these bodies, in many countries the government usually has greater influence over them and can and does ignore some of their rulings or decisions.
  97. 97. Concluding observations-Importance of the State  The first is the determination of the conditions on which labour power may be sold: the state intervenes to affect the reproduction of labour power, for example through social security legislation that guarantees minimum living standards, the result being that the supply of labour power no longer depends solely on the market.
  98. 98. Concluding observations-Importance of the State  Second, there is the regulation of how that labour power is used – e.g. Compulsory union recognition and collective bargaining as means of constraining management’s freedom to discipline workers.
  99. 99. Concluding observations-Importance of the State  Other examples are legislation restricting the hours of labour and establishing standards of health and safety: the employer’s freedom to use the labour power that he has bought is restrained not only by workers’ own actions but also by state regulation.
  100. 100. Concluding observations-Importance of the State  Regulations on the price of labour power may set limits to what can go on inside the labour process, but they do not directly shape the pattern of relations.
  101. 101. Concluding observations-Importance of the State  Regulations on the use of labour power directly constrain employers’ power over labour and affect how the labour process is organised.
  102. 102. Concluding observations-Importance of the State  But, at the end of the day, private employers have enough free hand to deal with workers as they deem fit.