Unions have continued to play a critical role in enhancing dialogue between employees and employers. However, the dynamic nature of the business environment has greatly re-defined the role of unions in the modern economy and workplace. Employers have different viewpoints when it comes to operating in a unionized and a union-free environment. This difference in perception and attitude towards unions greatly determines the employers’ willingness, or the lack thereof, to accept employee unionization.
Operating in a Union-free versus a Unionized Environment
Employers have a taste and preference for operating in a union-free environment as opposed to the environments with unions. The reasons behind this preference generally relates to the perceived benefits of union-free business environments as opposed to the disadvantages and cost implications of operating in a unionized environment. In this regard, employers generally tend to develop a dislike for the penetration of labor union policies into their operating environments (Shulruf, Yee, Lineham, Fawthorpe, Johri & Blumenfeld, 2010).
Employers associate unionized environments with additional costs. In a unionized environment, employers must be prepared to deal with demands for increase in the members’ wages. The demand for increased wages is one of the functions of the labor unions. On the contrary, in a union-free environment, the employer is not under pressure to raise the wages of the employees. In environments where the strong and loud voice of collective bargaining lacks, salary or wage increases are at the discretion of the employer (Shulruf et al, 2010). This means that the employer is not by any means under pressure to review the wages of the employees as would be the case in a unionized environment.
Operating in a unionized environment has great implications on employers in terms of the liberty and autonomy. The employer looses the discretion to hire and fire employees in a unionized work environment unlike in the union-free environments (Cross & Miller, 2009). For example, in a unionized environment, the employers have limited discretion in hiring and firing employees as would be the case in a union-free environment. In a unionized environment, the labor unions will have to intervene and establish the circumstances leading to the intended dismissal or firing of an employee. It is until such circumstances are justified and with determination of the interest of the employee that the employer can proceed to execute the dismissal plan without attracting opposition and industrial action from the employees through their unions (Cross & Miller, 2009).
Employers prefer union-free environments because unlike unionized business environments, organizational restructuring is easier. For example, an employer who intends to alter the structure of payments and classify workers according to skills and competence levels may find it easier than in an environment where such decisions can only be introduced and implemented with the approval of the representatives of the workers’ unions (Cross & Miller, 2009). The employer is thus greatly constrained and concedes some autonomy and authority to the union bodies. In this regard, it is generally challenging for employers to operate in a unionized environment because they must be ready to initiate negotiations with the employees through collective bargaining under the representation of the leaders of the labor unions (Shulruf et al, 2010).
Employers consider unionized environments to be placing them at a disadvantaged position compared to the union-free environment. Union employees are supposed to maintain productive quotas (Shulruf et al, 2010). This has a negative implication on the employer. In such operational structures, employees do not have the incentive to work harder to be promoted or get pay increase. Individual recognition therefore lacks since all employees are considered equally and treated in the same manner. On the contrary, a union-free environment gives the employer the discretion to recognize and reward individual effort and thus improve productivity through reinforcement approaches such as promotions and payment increments (Shulruf et al, 2010).
Employers perception of the union-free and unionized business environments can, in a more general term, be said to differ on grounds of liberty and other implications of labor unions to the autonomy and authority of the employer over the employees. Shulruf et al (2010) cited that the cost implications of operating in a unionized environment limit the employers’ ability to execute sanctions against their employees as would be the case in union-free environments. Therefore, employers prefer union-free to unionized business environments.
What is the Management Representatives permitted to say and do during Campaigns?
During the union campaigns, there are regulations regarding what the management representatives can do and say. Certain behaviors are therefore prohibited while others are acceptable (Shulruf et al, 2010). For example, the management is permitted to raise concerns if the union campaigns are perceived to interfere with the company’s or organization’s work. An illustration of this case is where employees engage in union discussions in the presence of a client. The management is also permitted to speak to the employees and discuss why it believes that union campaigns and membership may be harmful to the organization or company.
The management representatives have the liberty to limit the campaign activities of the union that take place within the company’s property (Cross & Miller, 2009). For example, the management may limit or totally prohibit solicitations and distribution of campaign materials that take place within the organization. Such limitations must however be justified with corresponding business reasons. The Labor Relations Code permits the management to express its opinion as long as such expressions are free from any words that may unjustifiably interfere with the employees’ rights to organize and unionize (Shulruf et al, 2010).
During the campaigns, the management representatives are not permitted to coerce employees, issue threats or promise an undue influence (Fiorito & Martinez, 2009). Therefore, all forms of communication from the management during the union campaigns must be within the legislative limits. The management or its representatives are not allowed to issue threats such as disciplinary measures against employees engaging in union campaigns or organizing activities. In addition, during such campaigns, the management is not permitted to question employees on their stand in connection with the union activities (Shulruf et al, 2010).
As union members organize and participate in their campaigns, the management or its representatives are not permitted to watch the employees (Fiorito & Martinez, 2009). Such actions or any other intimidating acts like taking of photographs are considered to be an indirect threat to employees and a contravention of the rights of the employees to join and actively participate in unionized activities and campaigns. In fact, even listening to employees and following their discussions with the organizers of the union or other union members is prohibited.
The employees are permitted to wear union buttons while at work (Fiorito & Martinez, 2009). Such access provisions must not be contravened by the management through restrictions of any form during the union campaigns. Further, any threats such as reduction of wages or benefits for employees should the union win elections are prohibited. However, the management is permitted to call all the workers together during the normal working hours and make a speech against the union campaigns or unionization efforts (Fiorito & Martinez, 2009).Such speech is permitted as long as it does not spill-out to become a threat to the rights of the employees.
In conclusion, most employers have a preference for union-free business environments. This is because of the cost implications and operational policies present in unionized environments. Unionized environments are characterized by moments of union campaigns. During such campaigns, the management must only respond to this through actions and words that are permitted. Any actions or communications that contravene legislative provision for union campaigns are thus prohibited.