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Employment Relation Work

Compare and Contrast Employment Relation System in Britain and America

The history of employment relations is dominated by the changing relationships between workers, trade unions, employers and the state. The concept which started from the rights for sufficient payment and good working conditions now has evolved in much broader areas.

Coming from mid 19th century to this date, employment relation has evolved a lot as a concept and practice. Employment relation in Britain and USA has some similarity in its fundamental areas of pay and working conditions; however, there are some differences like in industrial relation, unionism, collective bargaining as well as other HR practices.

What are Employment Relation and Industrial Relation?

Employment relation is the broader term of industrial relation. The term "industrial relations" has developed both a broad and a narrow meaning. When defining broadly, industrial relations, relationships and interactions between employers and employees.

From this perspective, industrial relations cover all aspects of the employment relationship, including human resource (or personnel) management, employee relations, and union-management (or labour) relations.

However, the term ‘industrial relation’ was narrowed in 1950s and 60s to avoid the confusion from word industrial, now , more restricted interpretation that largely links it with unionized employment relationships. In this view, industrial relations relate to the study and practice of collective bargaining, trade unionism, and labour-management relations, while human resource management is a separate, largely distinct field that deals with non-union employment relationships and the personnel practices and policies of employers. Thus, employment relations can be said to encapsulate both HRM and industrial relations.

UK history

Employment relation, as we now know, essentially grew from the trade union with the need to improve pay and working conditions, in particular around issues of health and safety and quality of life for the workers. To understand the issues today it is important to remember the past and the origins of the Trade Union movement and, in particular the role that women played in that process.

Trade unions in the industrialization in the 18th century existed as artisans' guilds; but trade unions did not formally (or legally) come into existence in Britain until the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. Employers used to determine the wages of an individual worker. Trade unions were not legal, also legislation prevents their existence.

Workers were able to form friendly societies and trade clubs, but were hindered by the legislation. The Six Acts of 1819 extend the magistrates' powers and restrict meetings and the distribution of leaflets. Trade Unions Act of 1825, allowed trade unions to exist, but not to strike, picket, or intimidate the workers who did not go on strike.

The legislation 1824–25 enabled organizations of workers to engage in collective bargaining. In 1851 the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (ASE) was formed. It was followed by unions in a number of crafts, such as carpentry, bricklaying, and boiler making These ‘New Model unions’ offered schemes against sickness, unemployment, and old age, and did not wish to change the nature of society. They did not support strikes, and tried instead to negotiate with employers. They were well organized and, since they recruited from skilled workers, well financed.

In 1868 thirty‐four delegates representing 118,000 trade unionists met at a ‘congress’ in Manchester; the Trades Union Congress (TUC) gradually became accepted as the central organization for trade unions. Under the Trade Union Act of 1871 unions were fully legalized and union funds were protected from dishonest officials. The Criminal Law Amendment Act (1871) allowed peaceful picketing during strikes.

19th century saw the growth of ‘new unionism’– unions for unskilled workers. The new unions concentrated on fighting for better wages and against unemployment. Strike action undertaken by unskilled workers' unions was more successful, such as the London Match Girls' Strike, led by Annie Besant in 1888; the Glassworkers' Strike, led by Will Thorne in 1889; and the Dockers' Strike, led by Ben Tillett in 1889.

After the 1890s the organization of unskilled labour spread rapidly. The trade union movement was involved in the formation, in 1900, of the Labour Representation Committee, a predecessor of the Labour Party. Successive acts of Parliament enabled the unions to broaden their field of action; for example, the Trade Disputes Act of 1906 protected the unions against claims for damages by their employers, and in 1908 the miners secured an eight‐hour day for their members, after industrial action.

By 1918 unions were stronger than ever before with a membership of 8 million. In 1919 miners, railway workers, and transport workers formed the ‘Triple Alliance’, agreeing to take joint action if any one union was threatened... Under the Trade Disputes and Trade Union Act of 1927 general strikes or strikes called in sympathy with other workers were made illegal, and union membership slumped. During the depression of the early 1930s, the unions were weak, since employers could call upon a vast pool of unemployed people who were happy to work under any conditions.

Because of coalition government of union leaders, trade unions raised to 8 million by 1944. The restrictive 1927 Act was repealed under the Labour government in 1946 resulting increase in unionism among white‐collar workers.

From the 1960s onwards there were confrontations between the government and the trade unions. In 1965 the Labour government set up a royal commission to examine the role of trade unions. The succeeding Conservative government's Industrial Relations Act (1971) included registration of trade unions, legal enforcement of collective agreements, compulsory cooling‐off periods, and strike ballots. The Employment Protection Act (1975) and the Trade Union Act (1976) increased the involvement of the government in industrial relations.

At this time, UK trade union membership had reached a peak of 13.5 million, representing 54% of the workforce. However, the 1980s saw a sharp setback in union fortunes, caused by severe economic repression, a shift in the economy towards the poorly‐unionized service industry, small firms, part‐time and self‐employed sectors, and a hostile Conservative government Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made the reduction of union power a key priority. Consequently, by 1989 union membership had fallen to 9.7 million, or 40% of the workforce, while working days lost to industrial action were around 3 million per annum. By 1996 union membership had fallen further, to a level of 7.9 million, of whom four‐fifths were affiliated to the TUC.

The Labour government which came to power in 1997 ,announced, in 1998, that an employer would be required to recognize a union if a minimum of 40% of the total workforce vote in favour of union representation.

It also introduced a statutory minimum wage, which unions representing low‐paid workers had campaigned for.

However, although still an important paymaster of the Labour Party, trade unions' influence over the party's policy and decision‐making was far less than during the 1970s. There still existed, in 1999, around 230 trade unions. Now, the trend has been towards union merger to create a small number of ‘super unions’.

US History

Trade unionism in USA was always opposed by employers and government, situation for unions was hostile than in UK, even using police and armed guards to harass pickets and protect strike breakers, which led to series of violence and bitter conflict.

Although the Democrat New Deal administration provided the right of workers to organize freely and bargain collectively, US legislation such as the Taft‐Hartley Act (1947), prohibited the closed shop (an agreement between employer and union that only the union's members could be employed), and the Landrum‐Griffin Act (1959) outlawed picketing of a related firm's premises.

Starting in the early 1960s, the New Deal industrial relations system, with its emphasis on collective bargaining as the major institution for determining wages and labour conditions in the economy, began to erode and be replaced by a new system.

Bad economic conditions from the 1970s onwards, and a shift in the balance of the economy away from manufacturing towards the service industry, where unionization rates were historically low, resulted in a progressive fall in union activity in the USA.

The new system that emerged, and then became consolidated in the 1980s and 1990s, featured a much smaller role for collective bargaining with a much-expanded role for personnel management now called human resource management and direct government regulation of employment conditions.

The new deal system in the US became the bases on which Human Resource management prosper as a separate filed of study and profession and influence of trade union decreases.

Serials of events from 1960s to 1990s lead to the present situation where Human resource management is popular and power of trade union is neutralised. It is not that there was only t entirely negative for unions, however. The most positive development was the spread of collective bargaining to the public sector. After liberalization of state and federal laws in the 1960s and 1970s, union coverage in the public (government) sector greatly expanded, from 11 percent in 1960 to 37 percent in 2000.

However, during 1960s, personnel/human resource management started coming major force in industrial relations, this is due to decline of the unionized sector of the economy, these new ideas and practices in human resource management allowed companies, in turn, to effectively take advantage of this opportunity. Personnel management by this time started to be recognised as tools of motivating people at work, increasing job satisfaction thus increasing the productivity.

These new insights were gradually integrated into personnel management, leading to a shift in both its name to human resource management and its approach to managing employees (from viewing employees as a short-run expense to a long-term asset). As a result, human resource management gradually replaced labour-management relations (increasingly thought of as synonymous with industrial relations) in the eyes of academics and practitioners as the locus of new and exciting workplace developments.

With the practices of human resources, came the new employment practices into selected plants and facilities, culminating in the development of what is often called a "high-performance" work system.

With package of employment practices, self-managed work teams, gain sharing forms of compensation, promises of employment security, formal dispute resolution systems, and a democratic organizational culture. These work systems not only boost productivity and employee job satisfaction, leading to reduced interest in union representation. Companies have also become much more adept at keeping out unions, not only through progressive human resource management methods but also through more aggressive and sophisticated union-avoidance practices.

Besides that, Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed numerous laws relating to other employment areas, such as pension plans, family and medical leave, and the portability of health insurance. It is widely considered that these laws and attendant agencies, courts, and attorneys have to some degree served as a substitute for unions, thus also explaining a portion of the union decline in the late twentieth century.

By 1999 only a seventh of US workers were union members, and in an effort to attract new members, particularly from the service sector, unions have placed increased emphasis on special benefits they can offer members, such as low‐cost credit cards, legal aid, travel discounts, and health‐ and child‐care.

Comparing and Conclusions

Looking at the history of industrial relations of both the countries, it seems that with the industrial revolution came the labour issues regarding pay, working condition and health and safety. Workers’ union, employers, and government were in constant battle, in this process there were lots of reforms in the employment act and collective bargaining in both the countries. However, the differences in these two development was, USA government become more hostile towards unionism where as in UK, with the raise in the power of labour party , Trade union prosper , till the conservative government of Margaret Thatcher reduces the power of trade union by breaking it down.

USA in 1960s and 1970s , had raise on service industry, which brought the new concept of personal management, in addition to this the US’s market driven economy portraits trade unions as a barriers as a result more individualistic employment relation and HR practices start taking place instead of collective unionism. During 1970s and 1980s, this new individual employment deal started comes in practiced. Highly influenced by USA’s market economy, Thatcher’s government paved the road for individualistic rather than collective form of employment relations.

Purcell & Sission (1983) with their theory of management style and employment relation gave 4 different management style Sophisticated Human Relations, Consultative, Traditional and Constitutional, these 4 dimensional of management style is based on degree of Individualism and Collectivism present in management style. Seeing from this model USA seems to have Sophisticated Human Relation having low on collectivism and high individualism, where as UK is moving from Constitutional towards US style of Sophisticated Human Resources.

With the change in time , there has been changes in employment relation and way people are managed, now with globalization and fast communication technology, outsourcing is becoming common, besides that with free movement of labour in EU, employment relation’s definition might be change in near future.. What ever the situation might be it is certain that no one system can last forever, collectivism which was the based of labour movement thought the UK history is now moving to individualism, therefore, as I see , Human resource management might come up as very strong factor for success and failure of the company.


Bennett, James, and Bruce Kaufman the Future of Private Sector Unionism in the United StatesArmonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 2001.

Derber, Milton. The American Idea of Industrial Democracy, 1865-1965 Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1970.

Dunlop, John. Industrial Relations Systems New York: Holt, 1958.

Jacoby, Sanford. Employing Bureaucracy: Managers, Unions, and the Transformation of Work in American Industry, New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.

Kaufman B.E. Human Resources and Industrial Relations: Commonalities and Differences."Human Resource Management Review 11, no. 4 (2001)

Kochan, Thomas, Harry Katz, and Robert McKersie the Transformation of American Industrial Relations New York: Basic Books, 1986.

London School of Economics & Political Science, Blackwell Publishing British Journal of Industrial Relations, Volume 45, Number 3, September 2007


工人能够形成友好的社会和贸易会社,但立法受到阻碍。 1819六行为扩大裁判司的权力和限制会议和散发传单。 1825年工会法“ ,允许工会存在,但不罢工,纠察,或恐吓谁没去罢工工人的。
1824至1825年启用的立法组织工人进行集体谈判。工程师( ASE )在1851年合并学会成立。其次是工会在一些工艺品,如木工,瓦工,和锅炉提供的这些新型号工会计划对疾病,失业,年老,并没有想改变社会的性质。他们不支持罢工,而不是试图与雇主进行谈判。他们良好的组织,因为他们招募熟练的工人,资金充足。
1868年34 118,000工会会员代表在代表大会在曼彻斯特见面的交易逐渐成为联盟大会(TUC )为中心组织工会接受。 1871年工会根据“工会法”完全合法化,工会经费免受不诚实的官员。刑法修正案(1871)在罢工期间允许和平纠察。
1890年后的非熟练劳动力的组织迅速蔓延。参与工会运动的形成,在1900年,劳工代表委员会,劳动党的前身。历届议会法案使工会行动扩大自己的领域,例如, 1906年的贸易纠纷法保护工会的损害赔偿金由他们的雇主,并于1908年获得其成员八小时矿工后,工业行动。
到了1918年的工会比以往任何时候都强前800万会员。在1919年矿工,铁路工人和运输工人,形成“三国同盟” ,同意采取联合行动,如果其中任何一个工会威胁...在贸易争端和“工会法” , 1927年的总罢工或罢工呼吁同情与其他工人被定为非法,工会会员颓然。 20世纪30年代初的经济大萧条时期,工会疲软,因为雇主可以呼吁失业高兴能在任何条件下的人谁是一个巨大的游泳池。
从20世纪60年代起,政府和工会之间的对抗。在1965年工党政府成立一个皇家委员会来研究工会的作用。随后保守党政府工业关系法“ (1971年) ,包括工会,法律执行集体协议,强制性冷静期,罢工的选票登记。 “就业保护法” ( 1975年)和“工会法” ( 1976年)增加了政府在劳资关系中的参与。
这时,英国工会会员已达到高峰,为13.5万,占劳动力的54% 。然而, 20世纪80年代在工会的命运,造成严重的经济压制,朝向不佳工会的服务业经济的转变,小企业,兼职及自雇行业看到了一个挫锐,一个敌对的保守党政府总理撒切尔夫人减少工会力量的一个关键的优先事项。因此,工会会员由1989年已经下降到970万美元,或40 %的劳动力,工业行动而损失的工作日每年约300万。工会会员由1996年进一步下降到790万的水平, ,其中五分之四下属职工大会。
上台的工党政府在1997年宣布,在1998年,雇主将被要求承认工会,如果最低表决赞成工会代表劳动力总数的40% 。
虽然在民主党新新政管理规定的权利工人自由组织和讨价还价统称,美国的塔夫脱 - 哈特利法案“ (1947年) ,禁止(雇主和工会之间的协议,只有工会的成员可以被雇用的封闭车间等立法)和格里芬兰德隆法“ ( 1959年)纠察取缔相关企业的处所。
系列事件从20世纪60年代至20世纪90年代率先现时的情况,人力资源管理是受欢迎和电力工会瓦解。这并不是说有只用-t工会完全是消极的,但是。最积极的发展是公共部门集体谈判的蔓延。在自由化的州和联邦法律在20世纪60年代和70年代,工会在公共部门(政府)的覆盖面大大扩大,从1960年的11%到2000年的37 % 。
此外, 1964年的民权法案通过了许多有关其他就业领域,如养老计划,家庭和医疗休假和健康保险可携性的法律。它被广泛认为,这些法律和随之而来的机构,法院和律师都在一定程度上担任工会的替代品,从而也说明工会在二十世纪后期下降的部分。
赛尔Sission (1983)与他们的管理风格和雇佣关系的理论给了4个不同的管理风格,复杂的人类关系,咨询,传统和宪法,这4维的管理风格的基础上的个人主义和集体主义的管理方式中存在的程度。看到从美国这个模型似乎有复杂的人类关系,集体主义和个人主义,高有低,而英国正在从宪法对美国风格,先进的人力资源。
贝内特,詹姆斯和布鲁斯·考夫曼的未来私营部门的联合主义在美国纽约州Armonk : ME Sharpe出版, 2001 。
Derber ,米尔顿。美国工业民主理念, 1865年至1965年香槟: 1970年伊利诺伊大学新闻。
邓禄普,约翰。劳资关系系统纽约:霍尔特, 1958年。
考夫曼B.E.的人力资源和劳资关系:共性和差异。 “人力资源管理回顾11 , 4号(2001年)
科昌,托马斯,哈利·卡茨和罗伯特McKersie美国纽约劳资关系转型: Basic Books出版社,1986年。